Gov. Chris Christie is warning that if the state Supreme Court rules the way it usually does on a long-running school funding case, it could doom other state services. The build-up about the immediate consequences gives the chapter of the court case known as Abbott v. Burke even more significance than many of the 20 other decisions in the case dating back to the 1980s.
The question now before the court is whether the state's cuts in aid to schools for the current academic year were so deep that New Jersey didn't live up to its constitutional requirement of providing a "thorough and efficient education" to all students.It's not clear when it might be decided.
But lawyers for the state and for children in the poorest school districts filed legal papers last week laying out their sides. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 20. Over the long history of the case, the state Supreme Court has consistently ruled that New Jersey should provide more money to the state's poorest school districts.
The rulings have led to free preschools for 3- and 4-year-olds in those cities. Those programs are often cited as national models and given credit for improving test scores of grade-school students. The infusion of money has also brought replacements and repairs for many of their decrepit school buildings, extra help for teaching key areas such as reading.