By John Mooney

A series of state Supreme Court rulings starting in 1985, Abbott v. Burke continues to shape and reshape education — especially for New Jersey’s poorest kids.

The state Supreme Court’s landmark school-equity rulings starting in 1985, referred to in shorthand as “Abbott,” as in Abbott district or Abbott school. Actually a series of decisions made over the past 30 years, Abbott remains the centerpiece of how the state funds its urban and suburban schools. Abbott’s core principle is to ensure that schools in 31 of the New Jersey’s poorest communities receive the “thorough and efficient” system of education guaranteed by the state constitution.

What it means
With a legal history dating back to the early 1970s, the Abbott rulings remain one of the most important set of decisions on school equity in the country and are still a major force in New Jersey. It was Abbott that led to universal preschool in the state’s poorest districts, the state’s massive school construction and renovation program, and the addition of extra programs and funding for the disadvantaged initiatives in and outside Abbott schools.


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