NJ's Sort-of-Funded Anti-Bullying Mandate

Back in January, the Council on Unfunded Mandates ruled that NJ’s highly-touted Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying legislation – which compelled all districts to implement multi-leveled procedures to prevent bullying and protect targeted kids – was unconstitutional because no money was provided to pay costs. A case in point was Allamuchy Township, which sued the state because it estimated its costs at $20,000.

At the time, NJ Spotlight noted, “extrapolating Allamuchy's staffing costs comes to $10 million to $15 million, but a staff analysis by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services a year ago said it could not put a price tag on the law, since each district would handle the responsibilities differently.”Anxious to salvage the legislation,  the sponsors of the bill, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex, convinced Gov. Christie to create a $1 million fund that would issue grants through the DOE to pay districts for the required training and staff time. Voila! Problem solved.

Today, however, the Star-Ledger and the Record are reporting that 371 local districts applied for grants that total almost $5 million (a figure much closer to Spotlight’s extrapolation than the Christie Administration’s token fund). Therefore, each district will get about 20% of its projected costs.

Haledon got $36. Bogota asked for $10,775 and got $2,208. Englewood Public Schools got $174.The Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology, however, received $9,000.

Is the anti-bullying legislation still an unfunded mandate and, therefore, unconstitutional? Is a partially-funded mandate good enough? Stay tuned.