posted on August 4, 2006
LIONS ALUMNI NEWS

The History of Abbott

1875 The New Jersey constitution is amended requiring the Legislature to establish a system of "thorough and efficient education."

Feb. 1970 A lawsuit, Robinson v. Cahill, brought on behalf or urban school children, charges the state's system for funding schools discriminates against poorer districts and created disparities in education.

Apr. 1973 The New Jersey Supreme Court rules that heavy reliance on property taxes for education discriminates against poor districts

Jul. 1975 The Public School Education Act, Chapter 212, creates a new state-funding formula for public schools, but lawmakers do not raise tax pay for it.

Jul. 1976 The NJ Supreme Court shuts down the public schools for eight days because the Legislature failed to fund the new formula. The first New Jersey state income tax is then enacted.

Feb. 1981 ELC files Abbott v. Burke on behalf of urban school children, challenging the 1975 Act as inadequate to assure a thorough and efficient education.

1985 NJ Supreme Court issues Abbott I, remanding case to Office of Administrative Law and ruling that to satisfy the Constitution, the State must assure urban children an education enabling them to compete with their suburban peers.

1986-87 Trial in Abbott takes place over a 9 month period before Judge Steven LeFelt

Aug. 1988 Judge LeFelt issues a 600 page initial decision, finding for Plaintiff-children and recommending a complete overhaul of State's system of providing urban education.

Feb. 1989 Education Commissioner Saul Cooperman rejects the Judge LeFelt's decision. He says the existing funding system provides equal education opportunities.

May 1990 Governor Jim Florio introduces the Quality Education Act in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision in favor of the Abbott children and introduces a $2.8 billion state tax increase to pay for the new law and the budget deficit he inherited.

Jun. 1990 The NJ Supreme Court rules in Abbott v. Burke (Abbott II) that inadequate and unequal funding denies students in urban districts a thorough and efficient education and requires the State to equalize funding between suburban and urban districts for regular education and to provide extra or "supplemental" programs to "wipe out disadvantages as much as a school district can."

Mar. 1991 Governor Florio signs an amendment to the Quality Education Art diverting $360 million to property tax relief.

Jul. 1992 ELC reactivates the Abbott case charging that the Quality Education Act fails to comply with the 1990 Abbott II ruling.

Jul. 1994 The NJ Supreme Court, in Abbott III, declares the Quality Education Art unconstitutional because it does not equalize funding or guarantee needed supplemental programs. The Court gives the State until 1997 to fully comply.

Feb. 1995 The NJ Department of Education releases a rough blueprint designed to achieve equalization between suburban and urban districts by reducing spending in the suburban districts.

Nov. 1995 Gov. Christie Whitman unveils a plan to change the school-funding formula by capping spending in suburban districts at a minimum level by directing implementation of the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards.

Dec. 1996 Gov. Whitman signs into law the Comprehensive Education Improvement and Financing Act (CEIFA) that incorporates her plan, without the spending caps in suburban districts. CEIFA authorizes spending in suburban districts at existing levels, and limits spending in urban districts at $1200 per pupil below the suburban average.

Jan. 1997 ELC returns again to the Supreme Court to challenge the failure of CEIFA to comply with the 1990 and 1994 Abbott rulings.

May 1997 The NJ Supreme Court, in Abbott IV, declares CEIFA unconstitutional and orders state officials to immediately increase funding for urban schools to parity with suburban schools. The Court also orders a special hearing before a Superior Court judge to determine the supplemental programs needed by disadvantaged children and to determine facility needs in urban districts.

Sep. 1997 The State allocates $246 million to the Abbott districts to comply with the Abbott IV ruling. 1997-98 marks the first school year in which funding for education is equalized between urban and suburban school districts.

Jan. 1998 After two months of hearings, Remand Judge Michael Patrick King recommends to the Supreme Court implementation of a package of supplemental programs, including preschool, at an additional cost of $312 million a year, and a program to renovate of replace urban school facilities.

May 1998 The NJ Supreme Court issues Abbott V and orders an unprecedented series of entitlements for urban school children including: whole school reform, full-day kindergarten and preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds, and a comprehensive state managed and funded facilities program to correct code violations, to eliminate overcrowding, and to provide adequate space for all educational programs in the Abbott schools. Other supplemental programs are also required such as health and social services, increased security, technology alternative education, school-to work, after-school and summer-school programs.

Jul. 1999 ELC returns again to the NJ Supreme Court to challenge the State's failure to implement well-planned, high quality preschool education for all children in the Abbott districts.

Mar. 2000 NJ Supreme Court, in Abbott VI, rules that the State had failed to implement preschool education as directed, and orders NJ Dept. of Education to overhaul program for 2000-01.

May 2000 NJ Supreme Court, in Abbott VII, reaffirms its prior ruling that the State must fully fund the Abbott school construction program.

Jul. 2000 Legislature enacts Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act authorizing school construction program for Abbott districts and school districts statewide.

Apr. 2001 Administrative Law Judge Masin rules that the State had failed again to properly implement the Abbott preschool program, as required in Abbott V and Abbott VI.

Sep. 2001 NJ Supreme Court hears argument on State's continuing failure to implement preschool.

Oct. 2001 Appellate Division of Superior Court hears arguments on the failure of the State to establish clear, effective and comprehensive guidelines for local school and district implementation of Abbott programs and reforms.

Oct. 2001 Supreme Court issues first half of Abbott VIII, directing timely state decisions of preschool plans and budget and expected administrative appeal process to resolve disputes between districts and DOE over plans and budgets.

Feb. 2002 Supreme Court issues second half of Abbott VIII, further clarifying requirements for State implementation of the Abbott V preschool mandate, as augmented by Abbott VI.

Feb. 2002 ELC and McGreevey Administration establish the Abbott Implementation and Compliance Coordinating Council, pursuant to Exective Order #6, bringing together the parties to Abbott, including ELC, Governors's office, Attorney General, Commissioners of Education and Human Services, Higher Education, and Economic Development Authority to identify implementation problems and solve them.

Mar. 2002 ELC agrees to support McGreevey Administration application before the Supreme Court for a one year freeze on further implementation of Abbott remedies at 2002-03 levels. In exchange, McGreevey agrees to boost preschool spending by $150 million and maintain parity with an additional $83 million in a year when budget deficits require flat State funding to all other school districts.

Jun. 2002 Supreme Court issues order in Abbott IX directing the one year freeze on further implementation of Abbott remedies.

Jul. 2002 McGreevey issues Executive Order #24 establishing the Schools Construction Corporation and calling for building "high performance" schools.

Dec. 2002 Abbott Implementation and Compliance Coordinating Council stops meeting amidst strong rumors the McGreevey Administration will seek a second year freeze on funding Abbott and will further seek to roll back the Court-ordered mandates.

Mar. 2003 McGreevey Administration applies to the Court to remove the mandates for whole school reform and supplemental programs.

Apr. 2003 Supreme Court directs the parties to mediate the disputed matters before Judge Philip Carchman.

May 2003 ELC and the DOE conclude ten days of mediation and Judge Carchman sens off a report to the Court.

Jun. 2003 Supreme Court accepts the mediation agreement, settling all matters except the DOE's request for a second year freeze on state funding of Abbott districts and issues the first half of Abbott X.

Jul. 2003 Supreme Court directs the DOE to fund the districts at amounts sufficient to maintain expenditures authorized in the 2002-03 budgets.

Aug. 2003 Cooperative Rulemaking group ordered in Abbott X concludes its work on new Abbott regulations and results in DOE accepting some recommendations and ignoring others.

Jan. 2004 Appellate Division hears appeals by 21 districts challenging the State's failure to provide $150 million in disputed state aid.

Jan. 2004 Secondary workgroup ordered in Abbott X begins meeting to develop research based reform initiatives for Abbott middle and high schools.

Feb. 2004 Evaluation workgroup ordered in Abbott X begins meeting to develop protocols for independent evaluation of Abbott implementation, ordered in Abbott V but not delivered by the DOE.

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Education Law Center
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E-Mail: elc@edlawcenter.org

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