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ENGLISH v. BOARD OF EDUC. OF TOWN OF BOONTON

March 26, 2001

PATRICK C. ENGLISH, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE TOWN OF BOONTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hochberg, District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Patrick C. English and Defendant Vito Gagliardi, Sr., Acting Commissioner of Education of the State of New Jersey (the "State").*fn1 The issue in this case is the extent to which the Fourteenth Amendment's "one person, one vote" principle applies to representation on a town's school board which governs a high school engaged in a "sending-receiving" relationship with another town. This Court having reviewed the submissions and oral argument of the parties, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court grants summary judgment for Plaintiff.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff is a resident of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, and brings this lawsuit in his capacity as a citizen. Plaintiff is also a member of the Lincoln Park Board of Education.*fn2 Lincoln Park is the "sending" district in a "sending-receiving" relationship with Boonton, New Jersey. Boonton High School is governed by the Boonton Board of Education (the "Boonton Board"), which has nine members from Boonton. Pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-8, Lincoln Park is allotted only one representative to the Boonton Board, despite the fact that Lincoln Park pays tuition to send its high school students to Boonton High School, and Lincoln Park students constitute 52% of the Boonton High School population. Plaintiff filed a Complaint on November 1, 2000, alleging that N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-8 is unconstitutional as it (1) violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution; (2) violates Plaintiffs civil rights under 28 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) violates the Equal Protection guarantees of the New Jersey Constitution.

The New Jersey legislature requires each public school district to educate, at its own expense, all students who are domiciled within that district. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-1. Pursuant to this statutory scheme, school districts without high schools may designate a high school outside of the district for its students to attend, with the consent of the receiving school district; the "sending" district pays tuition to the receiving school for the education of its students (known as a "sending-receiving" relationship). N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-3, -8. School districts engaged in sending-receiving relationships may not withdraw from the relationship without the consent of the State. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-13. For school districts in most counties in New Jersey, the statute provides for no more than one representative of the sending district to participate on the receiving district's board of education, regardless of the relative populations of the two districts.*fn3 N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-8.2. In relevant part, the statute provides:

A school district which is sending pupils to another school district pursuant to N.J.S. 18A:38-8 shall have representation on the board of education of the receiving school district as follows:
a. (1) If the pupils of the sending district comprise less than 10 percent of the total enrollment of the pupils in the grades of the receiving district in which the pupils of the sending district will be enrolled, the sending district shall have no representation on the receiving district board of education.
(2) If the pupils of the sending district comprise at least 10 percent of the total enrollment of the pupils in the grades of the receiving district in which the pupils of the sending district will be enrolled, the sending district shall have one representative on the receiving district board of education.

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:38-8.2.

The sending district's board representative is entitled to vote on the following matters provided in the statute:

a. Tuition to be charged the sending district by the receiving district and the bill lists or contracts for the purchase, operation or maintenance of facilities, equipment and instructional materials to be used in the education of the pupils of the sending district;
b. New capital construction to be utilized by sending district pupils;
c. Appointment, transfer or removal of teaching staff members providing services to pupils of the sending district, including any teaching staff member who is a member of the receiving district's central administrative staff; and
d. Addition or deletion of curricular and extracurricular programs involving pupils of ...

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