Robinson v. Cahill

CourtSuperior Court of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtBOTTER
Citation287 A.2d 187,118 N.J.Super. 223
PartiesKenneth ROBINSON, an infant by his parent and guardian ad litem, Ernestine Robinson, et al., Plaintiffs, v. William T. CAHILL, Governor of the State of New Jersey, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date19 January 1972

Page 223

118 N.J.Super. 223
287 A.2d 187
Kenneth ROBINSON, an infant by his parent and guardian ad
litem, Ernestine Robinson, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
William T. CAHILL, Governor of the State of New Jersey, et
al., Defendants.
Superior Court of New Jersey,
Law Division.
Jan. 19, 1972.

Page 226

[287 A.2d 188] Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., Jersey City, for plaintiffs (Ruvoldt & Ruvoldt, Jersey City, attorneys).

Stephen G. Weiss (Mr. Weiss was an Assistant Attorney General when this action was commenced and has continued with the case as special counsel), Wayne, [287 A.2d 189] for defendants (George F. Kugler, Jr., Atty. Gen., attorney).

William J. Bender and Frank Askin, Newark, filed a brief amicus curiae on behalf of the Education Committee of the

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National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Newark Chapter, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (David G. Lubell, New York City, and Paul Tractenberg, of the New York Bar, Newark, of counsel).

Melville D. Miller, Jr., Trenton, Staff Atty., State Office of Legal Services, Department of Community Affairs, filed a brief amicus curiae on behalf of the poor of New Jersey (Carl Bianchi, Trenton, attorney).

Robert A. Coogan, Eatontown, filed a brief amicus curiae on behalf of Gerald K. Loeb (Saling, Moore, O'Mara & Coogan, Eatontown, attorneys).

BOTTER, J.S.C.

This action challenges the constitutionality of the system of financing elementary and secondary public schools of New Jersey. The case is similar to cases in other states, such as California, Minnesota and Texas, where conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause was asserted recently. 1 Also present are questions of state constitutional law, namely, whether the equal protection and education clauses of the State Constitution are violated by New Jersey's statutory financing scheme.

Plaintiffs in this action include residents, taxpayers and officials of Jersey City, Paterson, Plainfield, East Orange and the Township of Berlin (Camden County). 2 They assert claims on behalf of all persons in New Jersey who have similar interests. Defendants include branches of the state

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Government and state officials who have or may have functions to perform in the enactment or administration of laws dealing with education and state financing.

The system of financing public education in New Jersey relies heavily on local property taxes. It produces wide disparities in educational expenditures. Plaintiffs contend that public school education is a state function which must be afforded to all pupils on equal terms. They contend that a 'thorough' education is afforded to some pupils but denied to others, and that the system discriminates also against property owners who are taxed at different rates throughout the state for the same public purpose. 3

The Attorney General, defending the constitutionality of our state statutes, concedes that differences in expenditures exist, and that inadequacies are present in some schools. He contends, however, that the statutory system is constitutional; that the 'State School Incentive Equalization Aid Law,' commonly known as the Bateman[287 A.2d 190] Act, 4 will increase state aid for certain deprived districts and will greatly reduce discrepancies caused by district wealth variations; that unequal expenditures do not necessarily prove unequal education, and that local control and responsibility to meet

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various interests justify the present system of shared funding. The court is urged to defer to the Legislature's judgment in an area as complex as education.

Public schools are financed primarily by local real property taxes augmented by various forms of 'state aid,' such as 'formula aid,' transportation aid, school building aid, lunch aid, etc., and federal aid. When this action was commenced in 1970, the State School Aid Law of 1954, as amended, was in effect. L.1954, c. 85, as amended; N.J.S.A. 18A:58--1 et seq. This law included a 'foundation program' consisting principally of minimum aid plus equalization aid, referred to as 'formula aid' because it is based on a formula.

Under the foundation program formula each district received equalization aid of $400 per pupil less its 'local fair share,' and in any case not less than $75 (minimum aid) per pupil. N.J.S.A. 18A:58--5. Cities with population over 100,000 (Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Camden, Trenton and Elizabeth) received an additional $27 per pupil, L.1966, c. 31; N.J.S.A. 18A:58--6.1; and by virtue of L.1968, c. 301; N.J.S.A. 18A:58--6.2 all districts received another $25 per pupil. Local fair share was defined as the equivalent of the amount of revenue that could be raised locally with a tax rate of $1.05 per $100 of equalized valuations (10 1/2 mills per dollar). N.J.S.A. 18A:58--4.

Equalized valuations is the terms applied to the true market value of taxable real property in a district as determined by the State Director of the Division of Taxation through studies of recent sales. N.J.S.A. 54:1--35.1 et seq. Under this law, aggregate assessments in each taxing district are adjusted to produce an equalized or true market value for the district. See In re Appeals of Kents 2124 Atlantic Ave., Inc., 34 N.J. 21, 26--27, 166 A.2d 763 (1961). Equalized valuations are used to establish uniformity in the distribution of state aid despite unequal assessing practices. See Switz v. Middletown Tp., 23 N.J. 580, 586, 130 A.2d 15 (1950).

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Thus, under the foundation program, every district received $100 per pupil, plus the difference, if any, between $325 and the local fair share (plus $27, if the district was one of the six largest cities). By 1969--70, however, every school district in the state had annual budgets which exceeded the level 'guaranteed' by the foundation program. The statewide average was over $800 per pupil. Today, two years later, the statewide average current expense per pupil is $1,009. All districts, therefore, had to finance the excess expenditure by local taxes, in addition to the local fair share. Some districts, of course, whose local fair share was high, received only the minimum aid of $100 per pupil.

Our principal concern is the Bateman Act, which was passed while this action was pending. The complaint was amended to bring that act under attack. However, the foundation plan is still relevant because the Legislature funded the Bateman Act for 1971--72 at a '20%' level, defined as that amount which would have been paid in 1971--72 under the foundation plan, plus 20% Of the difference between that aid and Bateman Act aid if Bateman were fully funded. N.J.S.A. 18A:58--18.1. For next year, 1972--73, this ratio has been raised to 40%. L.1971, c. 335, adopted December 7, 1971.

[287 A.2d 191] The details of the Bateman Act will be discussed later. This introduction is simply to show that the increase in formula aid under the Bateman Act in the first year has been negligible in most districts. Some poor districts received significant increases, however, especially those who benefited by the weighting factor in the formula for AFDC children (aid to families with dependent children). 5 However, relatively few school districts had an increase of $50 or more per pupil in 1971--72. Among the larger increases were $67.48 for Asbury Park, $80.41 for Camden, $109.82 for Newark, $98.51 for Trenton and $54.58 for Jersey City.

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The largest increase was $115.95 for Winfield Township, the poorest district in taxable property per pupil. Thus, under the present law school districts continue to raise the bulk of their funds by local taxes. On a statewide basis local taxes pay for about 67% Of public school costs, federal aid is about 5%, and the balance (28%) comes from state funds.

In 1971--72 the principal items of state aid allocable to current expenses--formula aid under Bateman ($245,013,900), state transportation aid ($31,270,200), atypical pupil aid ($32,688,900), school lunch ($6,500,000) and vocational education aid ($3,479,000)--constitute approximately 21% Of the aggregate of all current expenses. Current expenses for all districts are approximately $1.5 billion. 6

Fully funded and implemented, the Bateman Act would significantly improve upon the foundation plan in equalizing local revenue-raising power. However, school costs have been increasing at a rate of approximately 10% Per year. The average increase is close to $100 per pupil annually. See Basic Statistical Data of New Jersey School Districts, Bulletin A71--2 (July 1971), published by the New Jersey Education Association, hereinafter referred to as NJEA Bulletin, at page 14. Thus, increases in Bateman formula aid at '20%' increments per year will not offset the annual rise in school costs except, possibly, in a few districts. Accordingly, the statistics in Schedule A, annexed hereto, based in part on pre-Bateman data and in part on post-Bateman data, furnish a reasonable basis for evaluating the present system.

I. THE SCHOOL SYSTEM

There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth * * *. The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency.

* * * At the first session of our legislature (in Virginia) after the

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Declaration of Independence, we passed * * * laws, drawn by myself, (which) laid the ax to the foot of pseudo-aristocracy. And had another which I prepared been adopted by the legislature, our work would have been complete. It was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. This proposed to divide every county into wards * * * like your townships; to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive at the public expense, a higher degree of education at a district school * * *. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out...

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36 practice notes
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...for distribution to school districts shall be distributed in harmony with the opinion rather than according to the statute's terms. 118 N.J.Super. 223, 287 A.2d 187 (Law Div. We certified the appeals before argument in the Appellate Division and stayed the operation of the judgment until ou......
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • May 23, 1975
    ...294), however the burden of doing so would be distributed and borne, 2 and we agreed Page 338 with the determination of Judge Botter (118 N.J.Super. 223, 287 A.2d 187; 119 N.J.Super. 40, 289 A.2d 569 (Law Div.1972)) that "the constitutional demand had not been met ***" on the basis of gross......
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • May 13, 1976
    ...in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years. (Emphasis supplied) 2 The two opinions of the trial court are reported at 118 N.J.Super. 223, 287 A.2d 187 (Law Div.1972) and 119 N.J.Super. 40, 289 A.2d 569 (Law Div.1972). The several opinions and orders of this Court are reported ......
  • Pauley v. Kelly, No. 14036
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 20, 1979
    ...education promised by the State Constitution . . . ." (382 A.2d at 1247) After the Superior Court of New Jersey, in Robinson v. Cahill, 118 N.J.Super. 223, Page 873 287 A.2d 187 (1972), concluded that education must be raised to a "thorough" level in all districts of the state where deficie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
36 cases
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...for distribution to school districts shall be distributed in harmony with the opinion rather than according to the statute's terms. 118 N.J.Super. 223, 287 A.2d 187 (Law Div. We certified the appeals before argument in the Appellate Division and stayed the operation of the judgment until ou......
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • May 23, 1975
    ...294), however the burden of doing so would be distributed and borne, 2 and we agreed Page 338 with the determination of Judge Botter (118 N.J.Super. 223, 287 A.2d 187; 119 N.J.Super. 40, 289 A.2d 569 (Law Div.1972)) that "the constitutional demand had not been met ***" on the basis of gross......
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • May 13, 1976
    ...in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years. (Emphasis supplied) 2 The two opinions of the trial court are reported at 118 N.J.Super. 223, 287 A.2d 187 (Law Div.1972) and 119 N.J.Super. 40, 289 A.2d 569 (Law Div.1972). The several opinions and orders of this Court are reported ......
  • Pauley v. Kelly, No. 14036
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 20, 1979
    ...education promised by the State Constitution . . . ." (382 A.2d at 1247) After the Superior Court of New Jersey, in Robinson v. Cahill, 118 N.J.Super. 223, Page 873 287 A.2d 187 (1972), concluded that education must be raised to a "thorough" level in all districts of the state where deficie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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