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COMMISSIONER URGED NOT TO CHANGE ABBOTT RULES

ELC CALLS PROPOSED ACTION "FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAIR"

NJ Education Commissioner William Librera has announced he intends to revise the regulations governing Abbott supplemental programs, budgets and funding in May -- for the second time this school year. The announcement came at a meeting of the Abbott Rulemaking Committee on April 19th, following release of the proposed code revisions by Assistant Commissioner Gordon MacIness.

Under the FY04 State Appropriations law, the Commissioner can adopt Abbott regulations with no opportunity for public comment or review by the State Board of Education. The Commissioner used this power in September 2003 to adopt the current rules under which the Abbott districts prepared their school-based and district budgets for 2004-05. The districts submitted their budgets to the NJ Department of Education in early March, and the DOE is under a June 1st deadline to decide what programs the State will fund next year.

The rule changes presented by Assistant Commissioner MacInnes will significantly alter the standards for Abbott supplemental programs, such as full day kindergarten, early literacy programs, social and health services, parent participation and dropout prevention programs. The DOE will also change the rules for districts to prepare their budgets, apply for supplemental funds, and have the requests decided by DOE.

In an April 20th letter to the Commissioner, ELC Executive Director David Sciarra described the planned rule change as contrary to "basic notions of fairness and due process." According to Mr. Sciarra, "it would be fundamentally unfair and improper if the districts prepared their school-based and district-wide programs and budgets under one set of rules, only to have their budgets reviewed by DOE under a substantially different set of rules. Yet this is what would occur if the Commissioner adopts the revised rules in May."

ELC is seeking assurances from Commissioner Librera that he will not change the Abbott rules in the middle of the DOE review process, or at any time before the end of the current school year.

ELC is also calling on the Legislature to strip the Commissioner of power to make Abbott rules without any public notice and comment, as required by the NJ Administrative Procedure Act. "This unprecedented power deprives educators, parents and citizens in the Abbott districts of any right to be heard on one of the most important issues in their community," said Mr. Sciarra. "When the rules change from year-to-year, and during the year, sound and stable program planning and implementation becomes impossible," he added.