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Acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan is again trying with all her might to delay funding Lakewood’s unique demographic situation.

Despite that we remain in debt by $200 million, the Lakewood Board of Education, counseled by Attorney Michael Inzelbuch Esq., supports these efforts.

Luckily, R' Aron (Arthur) Lang is standing strong and urging the New Jersey Appellate Division to tell the Commissioner "no way!"

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' Lang in his long running lawsuit which seeks for a fairer funding formula for the Lakewood Public School District.

The 3-judge panel concluded that 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.

Mr. Lang and his co-counsel Professor Paul Trachtenberg have reached out to the Commissioner numerous times asking her to make it clear and explicit that:

• The remand process will proceed on an expedited basis, in accordance with a specific timetable providing dates for all the elements of that process, including the date for your final decision; and

• The remand process will be focused on the Appellate Division’s specific remand instructions—namely the petitioner-appellants’ argument that the SFRA funding structure is unconstitutional as applied to the Lakewood school district.

After not receiving any positive response from the Commissioner, as previously reported here on FAA News, last month, Mr. Lang filed a Motion in aid of litigants’ rights, 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....

Now, more than seven months after this court’s constitutional ruling and specific remand, the AC has produced nothing of relevance....

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.

The Education Commissioner, represented by Deputy Attorney General Christopher Weber, has responded by seeking the court's permission to extend the time to file their brief in response.

Essentially, they are trying every delay tactic possible.

Mr. Tractenberg isn't taking the matter sitting down.

He just responded with the following opposition to the State's delay tactic:

I would normally consent to a request for a modest extension of a filing date... However, in the context of this extraordinarily prolonged administrative and judicial proceeding, I could not in good conscience, and as a zealous advocate for my more than 5,000 student clients, do so yet again. 

After all, for much of the nine and a half years this matter has consumed, my co-counsel Arthur Lang and I have argued as strenuously as possible that time is of the essence for Lakewood’s public-school students and that every day they lose in their quest for a thorough and efficient education (T&E) is a day lost to them forever.

We expected this court’s forceful action to move us much closer to a final resolution of this longstanding matter. To our great frustration, however, virtually eight months later the acting commissioner seems to have done nothing in direct response to this court’s explicit remand instruction, and the process she has proposed to follow will almost certainly delay any final decision by her for more than an additional year. That is the gist of our motion in aid of litigants’ rights filed with this court 10 days ago.

In that context, the state respondents’ effort, on the due date of their brief, to extend the filing deadline by even two weeks rubbed salt in a very old and very deep wound. The explanations provided in Mr. Weber’s certification basically boil down to his having a lot of work and responsibility, as I would submit, we all do. 

In my view, it is essential for all of us to establish priorities and that it is long overdue for the State and its highest education officials to give the highest priority to discharging their paramount obligation of assuring the students under their charge with T&E as expeditiously as possible.

To send the clearest and strongest message to that effect, I urge the Appellate Division to deny the state respondents’ motion for an extension and to require that they submit their brief immediately. I also urge the court to proceed as expeditiously as possible to grant our motion in aid of litigants’ rights. We desperately need someone to send the public-school students of Lakewood and the rest of our state an unmistakable message that their most fundamental constitutional needs will be met without delay or excuse.

Mr. Lang urged residents to "get out the vote for BOE candidates that support this litigation," saying, "the current BOE supports the commissioner. If reelected, they will continue to spin data during the review to highlight their misguided position that education has improved and the courts shouldn't order the legislature to fix the formula."

As first reported here on FAA News, Avrohom Schubert, Eli Eisenbach, and Yoni Morgenstern have gotten on board and running for membership to the Board of Education under the slogan "Fixing the Formula."  

Rabbi Yehuda Shain who previously filed to run under the slogan "Accountability and Transparency" has backed out and has now thrown his full support behind the other three candidates.

Upon filing this new motion, Mr. Lang again called upon all Lakewood voters to get out and vote for his slate of candidates.

Mr. Lang highlighted that if the Appellate Division refuses to grant his motion, the governor will be able to delay the matter from getting back to Court until 2025 - when he is already out of office and likely enjoying a U.S. Senate position.

At that point, the debt will be $500 million. Eventually the legislature is going to tell us to pony up. It can authorize unlimited tax increases, using budgetary footnote language such as, "Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary," for "districts that owe over $100 million in debt" - which means we pay back $50 million a year (that is what the statute says and we have been paying 10% a year).

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