Join Our Telegram Channel


In a big victory for R' Aron Lang's tireless efforts on behalf of fairer school funding for all of Lakewood's students, the New Jersey Appellate Division has granted his Motion in aid of litigants’ rights, which sought for the court to order Acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan to adhere to a specific timetable.

As the news was broken here on FAA News, on March 6, 2023, in a massive win for Lakewood's taxpayers and students, the New Jersey Appellate Division granted a major win to R' Aron (Arthur) Lang in his long running lawsuit known as Alcantra vs. Hespe, which seeks for a fairer funding formula for the Lakewood Public School District.

The 3-judge panel concluded that the record generated before the Administrate Law Judge (ALJ) cannot fairly be said to support a finding Lakewood's students are receiving a constitutionally sound education, and therefore, the Commissioner of Education owed the appellants a thorough review of their substantive argument - that the funding structure of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) was unconstitutional as applied to Lakewood's unique demographic situation.

While this ruling does aim to bring more funding to Lakewood, a glaring issue is that the Appellate Division did not actually set any deadline for when this "thorough review" is to occur.

In response to the commissioner's continued failure to provide any meaningful timetable for this "thorough review" to occur, as previously reported here on FAA News, last month, Mr. Lang filed a new Motion in aid of litigants’ rights, again seeking for the Appellate Division to render their own decision on the matter, or at the very least, to set a timetable and enforce it.

Mr. Lang wrote in his motion brief:

This court’s action seven months ago should have brought us much nearer to the long overdue realization of T&E for Lakewood public-school students. The lengthy and detailed initial decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ), supposed to be forthcoming expeditiously (NJAC §1:1-18.1 (e)), took almost seven years from the filing of the students’ petition and five months from the conclusion of the hearing. The Acting Commissioner (AC’s) decision was surprisingly brief and conclusory, but it, nonetheless, took almost five more months (notwithstanding a much shorter time schedule for similar action prescribed by NJAC §1:1-18.6 (a)). These extensive delays in the administrative process are at variance with the very first rule of construction set forth in the N.J.A.C.’s provisions regarding the Office of Administrative Law, which provides that they “shall be construed to achieve… simplicity in procedure…and the elimination of unjustifiable…delay.” (N.J.A.C. 1:1-1.3 (a)). 

Now, more than seven months after this court’s constitutional ruling and specific remand, the AC has produced nothing of relevance. She persists in claiming that a “comprehensive review” of the Lakewood School District’s operations, originally ordered by her on July 16, 2021, for another purpose and apparently never even begun (despite a May 12, 2023, letter stating she ordered the NJDOE to “expedite”), is somehow necessary for her to address this court’s specific remand instruction regarding SFRA’s constitutionality.

Only after our persistent demands for a timetable did she disclose in an August 22, 2023, letter that the “comprehensive review” would take “approximately six months” and be followed by: indeterminate periods for the Lakewood district and the student-petitioners to submit their reactions, and for the AC to produce her final agency decision. 

Even now, it is not clear that such a review has begun.

The motion argues that the AC has inexcusably delayed her response to the court's remand instruction and has refused to provide a specific timeline for her issuance of a final agency decision. Therefore, the court should reassume jurisdiction of this case either: a) to establish a specific and expedited timetable for the AC's final agency decision regarding SFRA's constitutionality, or; b) alternatively, to directly render a decision regarding that legal issue, which is clearly with its power.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Deputy Attorneys General Christopher Weber and Ryan J. Silver on behalf of the Acting Commissioner of Education responded with opposition to the Motion for Aid in Litigants Rights. They were asking the court not to establish a specific and expedited timetable for the AC's final agency decision regarding SFRA's constitutionality.

Appellate Division Judge Mary Higgins Whipple just granted the motion in aid of litigants’ rights; directed that the Appellate Division reassume jurisdiction of the case, and ordered the commissioner to comply with the remand order by April 1, 2024.

This is a major victory for R' Lang's efforts as without the granting of this motion, the Commissioner would have dragged her feet much longer, and worse, she would have brought the Board of Education and Attorney Michael Inzelbuch back into the matter, which would have further delayed fairer funding for Lakewood.

Coincidentally, as previously reported here on FAA News, just yesterday, the very same Judge Whipple gave a big loss to Mr. Inzelbuch who did not argue on the constitutionality of the funding formula.

To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: