Court Orders Full Funding for Abbott Districts

Narrow 3-2 decision sure to spark off controversy and confrontation

Credit: John O'Boyle/Star Ledger
Justice Jaynee LaVecchia
If it wasn’t already, the Abbott v. Burke saga is about to get uglier.

After years, if not decades, of relative consensus on the bench, the state Supreme Court today ruled in a narrow 3-2 opinion that the state must spend an estimated $500 million in additional funding next year in the 31 so-called Abbott districts.

The 89-page majority decision vanquished any predictions of a more measured ruling that would have brought along the two more conservative members of the court, Justices Helen Hoens and Roberto Rivera-Soto. Both offered dissenting opinions.

The decision also likely rekindles the tensions between the high-poverty Abbott districts and the rest of the state. These had cooled under the court’s previous decision, which upheld the state’s funding formula that provided additional money to all districts with at-risk children.

But with Justice Jaynee LaVecchia writing the decision, the court’s majority said it would focus on the 31 Abbott districts — including Newark, Camden, Paterson, Trenton and Asbury Park – that have been the center of the court’s involvement for more than 30 years.

Read the decision and dissenting opinions.