The New Jersey Supreme Court held hearings yesterday on whether to abolish the decades-old Abbott School funding system in favor of a newer system created by Governor Corzine and approved by the School Funding Reform Act last year.
The Abbott funding system grew out of the Abbott v. Burke decisions that mandated poor districts to be equitably funded with wealthier districts, and therefore eligible for the billions of dollars in state aid that have been distributed over the years. Proponents of the new funding system argue that it is more effective in delivering aid to students who need it without discriminating against needy students in other districts. Under the new system, aid is distributed according to enrollment, with allotments for students that are low-income, have special needs, or are otherwise more expensive to serve.
The attorney representing the 300,000 children in the Abbott districts told the court those communities continue to suffer hardships and have already faced budget cuts this year, the first year the new formula was implemented.
“The extreme poverty, racial isolation … those conditions have not changed and in some cases are worse,” David Sciarra of the Education Law Center in Newark said of the Abbott communities.
Since the passing of Corzine’s non-Abbott funding legislation last year, however, Bloomfield’s eligibility for state aid has increased 20 percent, although whether or not this aid will be received is uncertain. It is also estimated that 49 percent of low-income students do not currently reside in the Abbott Districts.