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Dover Lawsuit: Judge Rules Cap on State Education Grants Unconstitutional

Dover School District

A judge has ruled that a cap on the amount of money the state sends to local school districts is unconstitutional.

Each year, the state sends money to local school districts to satisfy a constitutional mandate to provide an adequate education. The amount it sends is calculated by a formula determined by the legislature.

But starting in 2009, the legislature placed a cap on top of that formula which said the amount an individual school district received could only increase by a certain amount each year. As a result, several fast-growing school districts, including Dover, received less money than they would have without that cap. From 2012-2016, the spending cap has kept more than 77 million dollars from going to school districts across the state.

Last summer, the city of Dover filed a lawsuit against the state, calling the cap unconstitutional. On Tuesday, a Sullivan County Superior Court judge agreed.

Andy Volinsky represented Dover in the lawsuit.

“We like the fact that the court has permanently enjoined the state from using these caps to arbitrarily reduce the amount of adequacy aid that the state has to pay the school districts.”

The ruling does not, however, grant Dover the money it sought from the years the cap affected them.

In a joint statement, Senate President Chuck Morse and House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who intervened to defend the spending cap, said the legislature is committed to fully funding education and pointed to legislation already in place that would have removed the cap entirely by fiscal year 2018.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.
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