Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NJ: Lawyers Over Schools

Here's a nice clear metric for telling when you have a problem in your school district.

PIX11 reports that in 2014-2015, the school district of Elizabeth, New Jersey spent over $5.98 million on lawyers, both in house and outside firms. That works out to $237 per student. For comparison, the district spent roughly $750,000 on books in that same year.

School board member Jose Rodriguez notes that the board had to raise taxes to bring in an additional $7.1 million while cutting 81 positions in the district. The district has reportedly hired a forensic auditor, but I'm pretty sure a civilian amateur could figure out how many of those positions could have been saved with $5.98 million.

Elizabeth schools have had money issues before. In April of 2015 they were fined a chunk of money (over $300K) after it was determined that they had spent money state and federal lunch money to cater school board meetings. That investigation came on the heels of the school board president's conviction for falsifying her own child's free lunch documents. If we go back to 2011, we find even more accounts of graft and nepotism and shaking down staff for money for board members.

Okay, so maybe the hefty legal costs for the district make sense, given district leadership's apparent love of not-entirely-legal behavior. But it seems like it would be way cheaper to just send the lawyers home and just obey the law instead.


  1. If the legal fees are to defend these public officials against corruption charges, then that is outrageous. First, the public gets ripped off by the corruption. Then the public gets stuck paying for lawyers to defend corruption. Somebody needs to go to prison or get fined a lot of money. If we don't start punishing corruption, it will only spread more.

  2. Even if all the lawyer fees are special ed related, damn, follow the law, or hire someone who can show you how to do it!

  3. " seems like it would be way cheaper to just send the lawyers home and just obey the law instead."

    But then how can the lawyers make money?