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NJ Spotlight On Cities: Is Abbott Dead? School Reform and Funding in the Cities

How much money ensures a “thorough and efficient” system of education? After three decades, does the Abbott ruling remain relevant?

on-cities speaker composite

Education is one of the key issues we’ll be taking a closer look at during NJ Spotlight On Cities, and one morning panel will focus on the series of court rulings that have shaped and reshaped schools and school funding in this state since 1985.

The name Abbott v. Burke stems from the original class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 20 families from Camden, East Orange, Irvington, and Jersey City. The alphabetical list of plaintiffs started with Raymond Abbott, a Camden City student at the time. The defendant was Fred G. Burke, the state’s education commissioner first appointed by former Gov. Brendan Byrne.

The landmark ruling by the state Supreme Court that was intended to ensure that schools in 31 of New Jersey’s poorest communities received the “thorough and efficient” system of education guaranteed by the state Constitution. It has had enormous impact on how the state funds its urban and suburban schools for three decades.

Yet in recent years, the Christie administration has largely ignored the school-funding formula, and debate has heightened as to how much money makes an adequate education. All of which raises the question: how relevant does Abbott remain?

The panel will be moderated by NJ Spotlight education writer and founding editor John Mooney and feature panelists Paul Tractenberg, co-¬director, Institute On Education Law and Policy and founder of the Education Law Center; Drew Martin, executive director, KIPP¬ Cooper Norcross Academy in Camden; and Chris Cerf, superintendent of Newark Public Schools and former New Jersey commissioner of education.

Information about the Abbott decision and a list of the Abbott schools can be viewed online.

This is the latest in a series of “spotlights” on our speakers for our upcoming October 16 conference, NJ Spotlight On Cities. You can see the full agenda and buy tickets online.

Discounted tickets are available for small nonprofits, students, and educators. For more information, send an email to

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