In a unanimous ruling issued today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the State’s duty to provide for the educational needs of New Jersey’s most vulnerable schoolchildren. While acknowledging the State’s fiscal constraints by granting Governor Jon Corzine’s request for a one-year Abbott funding freeze, the Court ordered the State to work with districts to protect necessary programs and preserved districts’ rights to appeal insufficient State funding decisions that “substantially impair” programs, positions, or services needed by the Abbott schoolchildren.

The Court also took important steps to ensure that the State will be accountable for improved performance in the Abbott districts. The Court ordered the completion of comprehensive fiscal audits in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, and Camden by November 2006, and the completion of all other fiscal audits and all programmatic evaluations of the Abbott districts in sufficient time to inform decision-making for the FY2008 budget year. Further, the Court is requiring that DOE regulations governing the submission of Abbott district budgets after FY2007 be promulgated in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act and be in effect for a minimum of two years. This relief, requested by ELC, will ensure stakeholder input into the development of the Abbott rules, and will allow stabilization of the Abbott reforms.

“We hope that State education officials work cooperatively with districts to protect all needed programs, even if more funding is necessary,” said David Sciarra, counsel to the Abbott school children. “We also stand ready to work with Governor Corzine and other concerned citizens in strengthening the historic progress now underway in our urban public schools.”

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