I find it hilarious that in Christieland, teacher "quality" (whatever that means) is a huge factor in students' success, but money spent doesn't matter.TRENTON — The Christie Administration’s case against the state’s school aid formula has exploded like a trick cigar in the faces of the state lawyers trying to make it. A judge in Hackensack warned members of the Attorney General’s staff their approach misses the point of what the state Supreme Court wants done."I am questioning the appropriateness of the argument in this forum," Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne told Jon Martin, leader of the Attorney General’s team.Worse, it all happened while a woman thought to be the state’s star witness was testifying. The state Department of Education’s chief statistical expert ended up agreeing on an essential point the lawyers challenging the administration’s view are trying to make—that money spent on schools does matter.
So why are we even debating this?Doyne had immediate problems with the charts. Among the most obvious—all the student test data predated the Christie cuts. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Martin went through the charts in a slow and halting manner and, hours into it, an idea appeared to occur to Doyne like a lightbulb flash—but it certainly wasn’t the idea Martin had in mind."If we look at these charts, could one also conclude that the school districts with the greatest level of poverty have a lower pass rate than wealthier districts?" Doyne asked Erlichson."Yes," she replied.That wasn’t the conclusion Martin sought. He wanted Erlichson to testify that there was no correlation between spending and student performance. She finally did, in a way, but not in a way that helped the state’s case very much.Erlichson pointed out that the charts did not exactly show that because the data did not try to correlate actual spending with test scores. Rather, she said, it correlated test scores with how close districts came to spending at a level considered an "adequacy budget," a kind of statistical fiction that lies at the heart of the SFRA.On cross-examination, Erlichson told lawyer David Sciarra that she had no opinion whether the adequacy budgets were "fair or appropriate." She also agreed the charts—prepared at the administration’s request—did not "tell us anything about growth over time."Sciarra, head of the Education Law Center, then asked the question that seemed aimed right at the heart of the Christie Administration’s theory of the case: "Is it your testimony today that money doesn’t matter?""No," answered Bari Anhalt Erlichson.