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.

12 replies on “NJ Supreme Court to Decide Future of the Abbott Funding System”

  1. (Reading the comments on makes this place look like a spirited game of ring-around-the-rosie.)
    I have a very simple statement: if you cannot educate a kid on almost 20k a year, the kid cannot be educated.
    For this, no matter how much money you spend, the result will be the same unless the underlying issues are addressed.
    And they will not.
    Therefore, spend and tax all you like, it won’t matter.
    Unless and until education is valued in those communities– by action, not words (parent/teacher conferences, parental activism, kids working hard, etc.) this will continue for another 40 years…..

  2. The State only cares about educating those children who live in the proper zip code. Let’s say you have two neighbors on Stonehouse Road, one in Bloomfield, one in Glen Ridge, both with developmental disabilities. You can be assured that the State will contribute more to the child that lives in Bloomfield then the Glen Ridge child. Why? Because Glen Ridge isn’t large enough to effect the party leadership in the State, and if you get upset about the funding no one else in State cares about all you “rich people”. I just can’t see how a politically appointed uber liberal State Supreme Court reverses itself on the Abbot Districts in an election year.
    By the way the funding formula the task force presented says that both those children deserve the same amount of aid from the State to assist with their education. Makes way too much sense to be enacted in NJ.

  3. I’m with the Prof on this one. Some kids are born to be illiterate until they die, and we need this, because someone has to make fries at McDonalds and pick up our garbage. Right, Prof?

  4. Spiro,
    No. Re-read pal.
    All kids can learn. The question is the culture they grow up in and whether or not education is valued.
    Think of a Young Obama and his Mother reading English to him at 4am.
    That’s valuing education (and one of the best and loving stories I’ve every heard).
    Unfortunately, for some, they’d rather sleep, eat chips and watch TV than help their kids read.
    And don’t make fun of working at McDonalds MANY a manager with just a HS education have worked their way up to management.
    The question is work ethic.
    Which, sadly, is right up there with valuing education.
    (Now go and twist my words…)

  5. Prof hit the nail on the head. Money doesn’t amount to a hill of beans unless you have parental involvement (reading to your kids, making sure they have breakfast before they get to school, taking part in extracurricular activities, getting to know your child’s teachers and attending PTA meetings).

  6. I was visiting relatives (who live far away) recently and heard something that the good professor will find illustrative of the problem. One relative (I don’t know exactly how we are related, but that’s not important) has a boy in grade school. There are about 25 children in his class, a decent size.
    Only three children’s parents showed up for the conference with the teacher.
    No amount of increased spending is going to help those 22 children.

  7. Amazing that there can be 50+ comments on articles that are so unimportant and then there are a total of 6 on a subject such as this. For all those people in this area that have complained for years about why your real estate taxes are so high, this is the essence of why that is. Abolishing the Abbott System would be a huge step in getting a more fair distribution of the government subsidy for our schools that is the main culprit in why the taxes in Montclair and Glen Ridge are so high.

  8. NoCorzine,
    I’m pretty sure everyone’s already aware of that and totally agree that the Abbott System should go…
    That’s the problem when everyone agrees: There’s nothing to debate about.

  9. So then, do you agree with Attorney General Anne Milgram? First, she argued that the new funding formula provides enough money for all students and districts. Then she suggested that if the Justices were concerned that the Abbotts were not getting enough support that they should require the Legislature to fully fund the Abbotts, not the rest of you.
    I want a funding sysem that we can all count on, that helps us graduate all our kids. The SFRA isn’t it. And the fact that 88 school districts will be underfunded in 2009-2010 only underscores the problem.

  10. Underfunded?
    By what standard?
    Understand, with home rule municipalities are free to spend whatever they like on education.
    So a wealthy town is within its right to spend 18k a kid.
    But because they do does not mean that we taxpayers must pay so kids in poor neighborhoods also get 18k a kid.
    I would argue that the State is required to set a base number for each district to spend per pupil.
    And that’s it.
    If wealthy towns want to spend more, so be it.
    If poorer towns want to go without certain things in order to spend more. Let them.
    But the idea that we must spend 20k per kid in these districts where they do not get educated is a waste of money, dishonest and wrong.

  11. Prof, well said. I believe the statistics are that Montclair and Glen Ridge spend about $12k per pupil while Newark spends more than $18k. This supports your contention that those towns that do not get much funding, run a tighter more efficient ship because they have to. While places like Newark get the majority of the money and thus have the resources to spend 50% more per child. And I agree that the results are not there to continue throwing money at something that is clearly not working.

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