School Funding

For over 40 years, ELC has led the effort for fair school funding in New Jersey. In the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation, ELC secured groundbreaking rulings by the New Jersey Supreme Court, equalizing funding in 31 poor urban communities with successful suburban districts to support rigorous, standards-based, K-12 curriculum. The Court also directed the State to provide additional funding for “supplemental” programs to address needs arising from concentrated student poverty; these programs included preschool, full-day kindergarten, intensive early literacy, and social and health services.

For both the most current and archival information on ELC’s school funding work in New Jersey and other states, please visit our News page.

To stay up-to-date on our work, subscribe to our electronic news releases by entering your contact information in the Join Our Network box on the lower right-hand side of this page

Advocacy & Litigation

In 2008, with Court approval, the NJ legislature enacted the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) statewide, effectively replacing the Abbott remedies. The SFRA is a “weighted student formula” delivering state and local funding driven by a “base cost,” or the per pupil amount necessary to support the core curriculum program for every student regardless of need. The formula provides extra funding to support programs for at-risk students, limited English proficient students, and students with disabilities.

However, an aid cut in 2010, followed by years of flat funding under former Governor Chris Christie, has left hundreds of school districts below the “adequacy” levels required by the SFRA to provide a “thorough and efficient” education. Currently, ELC is working to ensure Governor Phil Murphy and the State Legislature renew the State’s commitment to fully funding the formula.

ELC works with education advocates across the country on school funding, providing technical assistance to lawyers working on school finance cases, preparing amicus briefs in significant cases, sponsoring the annual Litigators Workshop for school finance lawyers, and providing stakeholders with school funding data. For more information about ELC’s work around the country, please visit the Litigation pages on this website.

Research & Publications

ELC maintains a comprehensive, longitudinal database about New Jersey school funding. To access interactive charts and other information, please visit the School Funding Data page on this website.

For information about school funding in all 50 states, please see ELC’s Making the Grade series, which provides compelling evidence that K-12 public school funding continues to be deeply unfair in many states and a major factor contributing to disparities in education resources, opportunities and outcomes for the 50 million public school children across the United States. The reports, which grade the states on three measures of fair school funding, was designed to assist policymakers, advocates and others as they answer a key question: How fair is public school funding in your state?

The ELC report, From Courthouse to Statehouse—and Back Again, draws lessons from an in-depth study of four states—Massachusetts, Kansas, Washington, and New Jersey—to shed light on a key question that has long challenged public school advocates: What does it take to achieve substantive, structural change in how states fund public education, especially for students enrolled in schools segregated by poverty and race?

To read additional ELC reports on school funding, please visit the Publications page.

Resource Equity in the States

ELC seeks to elevate the urgent need for school funding fairness as a state and national imperative for improving student outcomes and school performance. Crucial to achieving that goal is reframing the school funding debate from a focus on dollars to essential education resources and improved outcomes, while illuminating the capacity and need for states to increase investment in public schools and improve their finance systems. 

To this end, ELC is developing more in-depth, state specific data and analyses often missing in debates over education finance and school funding reform. These reports investigate the fairness of current school funding systems and the allocation of resources, especially as it relates to students in poverty. The reports for several focus states are available on the Resource Equity in the States project page.

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