The public schools in Newark, New Jersey are in a state of “extreme chronic fiscal distress,” according to a new report by the nonprofit Education Law Center (ELC). “The ongoing budget crisis has eroded essential resources,” and students are being deprived of their rights to an adequate education under the state constitution.
How does the ELC define “extreme chronic fiscal distress?” Newark’s traditional public schools spent a whopping $18,208 per pupil in 2014–15. That tops average per pupil spending in every state except New York. (Though, of course, there are many cities and towns that spend more.)
The ELC was behind the landmark 1981 lawsuit Abbott v. Burke that sought to increase school funding in the state’s poorest districts. Decades later, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in its favor and a boatload of additional state funding started flowing to cities like Newark. But the schools barely improved. It turns out that how schools spend money also matters.