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11-18-08 Supreme Court decides in favor of Abbott districts re new school funding law
ALSO, CLICK ON MORE BELOW TO READ EXCERPTS OF THE SUPREME COURT DECISION,and for website link to full decision..... Star Ledger - 'Court rejects Corzine's bid to end N.J. schools case'

"Until the State demonstrates to our satisfaction that a constitutionally adequate education can be provided to Abbott district students through the funding that will be provided via SFRA (the school funding formula), the State is bound to comply with the prior remedial orders and decisions respecting the plaintiffs in Abbott districts," the court said in its 5-0 opinion..."

In the latest Abbott v. Burke case the New Jersey Supreme Court was asked by the State to rule whether the new School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA) was constitutional as applied to the Abbott districts. The State had returned to the Court in the spring and asserted that the SFRA would provide adequate state funding for all New Jersey students to receive a “thorough and efficient” education, an entitlement under New Jersey’s constitution. Because of the new funding formula, the State argued that both the Abbott designation and the existing Court ordered method for providing State funding to Abbott districts were no longer necessary.

In a 5-0 decision, the Court held that the State’s application to have the SFRA declared constitutional in regard to the Abbott districts could not be resolved because additional evidence was necessary.

The matter was remanded (sent back) to a special master who will determine the facts on whether the SFRA should be permitted to replace the existing funding method previously ordered by the Supreme Court. The Court further ordered: • The case is remanded to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Doyne, who will sit as the Special Master. Judge Doyne will be responsible for conducting a hearing to “develop a full and complete evidential record” that addresses the disputed issues of the case; • The burden is on the State to prove that the SFRA is sufficient to provide students in Abbott districts with a thorough and efficient education; • The burden is on the plaintiffs (the children) to prove that the funding for the current year in Abbott districts is inadequate; ...'

Gannett: November 18, 2008 'Supreme Court kicks Abbott case back to special master...School funding formula will remain in place for current year'

To review the full decision, go to: 


GSCS/Excerpts from the Supreme Court Decision re Abbott Districts [ELC]  v State of NJ

“…In January 2008, the Legislature passed, and the Governor

signed into law, a new school funding formula titled the School

Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA), L. 2007, c. 260.


Thereafter, the State sought to reopen this matter by filing a motion seeking declarations that the SFRA satisfies the requirements of the thorough and efficient education clause of the New Jersey Constitution and, further, that the Court’s prior remedial orders concerning the provision of a thorough and efficient education in the Abbott districts “are no longer necessary.”Plaintiffs, through the Education Law Center (ELC), opposed the State’s motion.


Moreover, plaintiffs filed a cross-motion

seeking an order that preserves the “status quo” in this

decades-old litigation and that specifically declares that this

Court’s prior remedial orders remain in force.


On September 22, 2008, the Court heard oral argument on the

dual applications. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, we

conclude that this matter cannot be resolved on an undeveloped

record. Because the issues before us require more than a

summary review, we order that this matter be remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion…”



It is well recognized that legislative enactments enjoy a

presumption of validity… The SFRA, however, was not enacted in an ordinary context.


Plaintiffs, more than once, have carried their burden when

challenging prior school funding statutes, resulting in the

invalidation of those funding schemes…As a consequence of plaintiffs’ successful prior challenges to constitutionally deficient funding schemes, this Court has entered specific remedial orders to ensure that plaintiffs would receive a constitutional level of funding…SFRA it he most recent legislative effort toward the enactment of a constitutional school funding statute. We cannot ignore that SFRA’s passage came in the wake of the constraining circumstances of those prior remedial orders directed at the State.


The State comprehends the unique procedural circumstances

before us because its application includes a request to be

relieved from compliance with this Court’s prior remedial

orders. The State also asks that we declare the new SFRA

funding formula constitutional. The State made the policy

choice to provide state funding to public school districts in

the current fiscal year consistent with SFRA.


We cannot give an advisory opinion on SFRA’s statewide

constitutionality. The Abbott v. Burke litigation does not

provide this Court with jurisdiction to address the statute’s

applicability to students not before the Court. However, we do

have jurisdiction to determine whether SFRA is constitutional as

applied to pupils in the Abbott districts. Moreover, the

existing decisions and orders of this Court must serve as the

starting point for any discussion of the constitutionality of

SFRA as applied to the pupils who are the beneficiaries of those



Through their pending applications the State and plaintiffs ask

that we confront the intersection of the Legislature’s new

funding formula with our prior decisions. In essence, the

question is whether the formula should be permitted to replace

the funding methodology previously ordered.


II. History of Abbott decisions…




We note, however, that the State informed us that the Abbott

districts are funded in the 2009 fiscal year at 102% of the 2008

fiscal year’s funding level for each district. That information

compels us to add that we consider that level of funding for any

individual Abbott district to be presumptively sufficient for

the current year.


Nevertheless, pending our review of the record to be

developed on remand, we are reluctant to deprive the Abbott

districts of the opportunity to demonstrate that, within the

limits of their current year funding, they are incapable of

providing a thorough and efficient education. Therefore, we

hold that the remand shall not preclude any Abbott district from

attempting such a demonstration to rebut the presumption of

sufficient current year funding.


The matter is remanded to a special master to be appointed

by Order of the Court. The proceedings on remand shall be

expedited. Jurisdiction is otherwise retained.



join in this opinion. CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICE LONG did

not participate.


GANNETT/Asbury Park Press

November 18, 2008

Supreme Court kicks Abbott case back to special master

School funding formula will remain in place for current year


The state Supreme Court ruled today there isn't enough court record for it to determine whether Gov. Jon S. Corzine's new school funding formula is constitutional.

The court has allowed the formula to stand for the current school year but has remanded proceedings to a special master, Superior Court Judge Peter E. Doyne, to determine whether the formula can be applied permanently.

Corzine, trying to remedy years of ad hoc school funding, proposed in 2007 a new formula that aimed to base funding on children's needs, not districts' wealth. The $7.8 billion plan, up $530 million from what was spent the previous year, raised aid for all districts between 2 percent and 20 percent.

The Education Law Center, which represents children in the state's so-called Abbott districts, filed a legal challenge to the formula, which was approved by the Legislature in a frantic lame-duck session in January, because it represents a turning point away from the court-ordered, two-tiered funding system that for decades has steered a majority of state education dollars to the state's poorest 31 districts.



Star Ledger - Court rejects Corzine's bid to end N.J. schools case

By Dunstan McNichol

The state Supreme Court today rejected Gov. Jon Corzine's request to pull the plug on the long-running Abbott v. Burke court case, a case that has forced a succession of governors to steer billions of dollars in special state aid to Newark, Camden and 29 other needy communities.

Instead of closing the case, the court opted to set up a special set of hearings where Corzine will be given the chance to prove to a "special master" whether his new formula for distributing $7.8 billion in state school aid eliminates the need for the special consideration the court has demanded for the so-called "Abbott" communities. The court named Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne as the Special Master.

"Until the State demonstrates to our satisfaction that a constitutionally adequate education can be provided to Abbott district students through the funding that will be provided via SFRA (the school funding formula), the State is bound to comply with the prior remedial orders and decisions respecting the plaintiffs in Abbott districts," the court said in its 5-0 opinion.

The court declared the level of funding included in the current state budget for the Abbott communities to be adequate. However the court required that Abbott communities who feel they need additional funds for supplemental services must be given the chance to apply for them.

The court ordered that hearings before the special master, who will be appointed by the court, be expedited and that they be limited to the question of whether Corzine's funding for Abbott communities and special needs students are adequate.

Categories: Court news, Education


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