New Jersey Department of Education

DOE A to Z: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

DOE Archives

This information has been preserved for historical purposes. It is not current.

History of Funding Equity


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

Feb. 1970

Robinson v. Cahill is a lawsuit brought on behalf of urban school children, charging that the state's system for funding schools discriminated against poorer districts and created disparities in education.

Apr. 1973

The NJ Supreme Court rules that heavy reliance on property taxes for education discriminates against poor districts

Jul. 1975

The Public School Education Act, Chapter 212, created a new state funding formula for public schools, but lawmakers did not raise taxes to pay for it.

Jul. 1976

The NJ Supreme Court shut 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

The Education Law Center (ELC) files Abbott v. Burke on behalf of urban school children, challenging the 1975 Act as inadequate to assure a thorough and efficient education.


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


Trial in Abbott takes place over a nine-month period before Judge Steven LeFelt

Aug. 1988

Judge LeFelt issues a 600-page initial decision, finding for plaintiff and recommending a complete overhaul of state's system of providing urban education.

Feb. 1989

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

May 1990

Governor James Florio introduced the Quality Education Act in anticipation of a NJ Supreme Court decision in favor of the Abbott children and introduced 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 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 Act 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. Christine Todd 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 NJ 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 v. Burke IV, declares CEIFA unconstitutional and orders state officials to immediately increase funding for urban schools to achieve 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 v. Burke IVruling. 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 NJ 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 or replace urban school facilities.

May 1998

The NJ Supreme Court issues Abbott v. Burke V and orders an unprecedented series of entitlements for urban school children including: whole school reform, full-day kindergarten and preschool for all three- and four-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 v. Burke VI, rules that the state had failed to implement preschool education as directed and orders NJ Dept. of Education to overhaul the program for 2000-01.

May 2000

NJ Supreme Court, in Abbott v. Burke VII, reaffirms its prior ruling that the state must fully fund the Abbott school construction program.

Jul. 2000

Legislature enacts the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act authorizing school construction program for Abbott districts and other 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. Burke Vand Abbott v. Burke 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 v. Burke 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 v. Burke 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 Executive Order #6, bringing together the parties to Abbott, including ELC, Governor's office, Attorney General, Commissioners of Education, 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, Governor 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 v. Burke 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 amid 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 NJ Supreme 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 sends 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 v Burke X (Mediation Agreement Order).

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’s 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.

Jun. 2004

Governor McGreevey signs a bill designating the Salem City public schools as the thirty-first Abbott district, implementing a February 2003 decision by Commissioner Librera in Bacon v. NJ Department of Education.

Oct. 2004

The Washington, DC-based Education Trust issues a report, "The Funding Gap 2004," showing New Jersey to be a national leader in providing equitable school funding for poor and minority students.

May 2005

Commissioner Librera launches the Abbott Secondary Initiative, an ambitious program of middle and high school reform in Abbott districts.

May 2005

In a unanimous decision , the NJ Supreme Court directs the state to "ensure that full funding is available" for preschool programs for three- and four-year-olds in NJ's Abbott districts.

Aug. 2005

In response to a lawsuit by ELC, Superior Court Judge Neil Schuster orders DOE to prepare a plan to manage implementation of the Abbott reforms for the years 2006 and 2007.

Jan. 2006

The NJ State Board of Education rules that students in 16 rural districts, like their urban counterparts, are not receiving a thorough and efficient education under CEIFA.

Jan. 2006

For the second year in a row, the Washington, DC-based Education Trust issues a report, "The Funding Gap 2005," identifying New Jersey as a national leader in providing equitable school funding for poor and minority students.

May 2006

The NJ Supreme Court issues an order granting a one-year Abbott funding freeze, while ordering the state to work with districts to protect necessary programs, preserving districts' rights to appeal insufficient state funding decisions, and requiring the state to conduct fiscal audits and programmatic evaluations of the Abbott districts and to promulgate regulations in accordance with the APA.

May 2006

The NJ Supreme Court clarifies its order of May 9, 2006, setting tight time frames for district budget appeals and directing DOE to fund the opening expenses for all new and renovated school facilities that come online in FY 2007.

April 2007

ELC asks the NJ Supreme Court to order state officials and the Legislature to provide funding to restart school facilities projects.

May 2007

The NJ Supreme Court rules in Abbott XVII on ELC's request for additional funds for school construction, finding that the relief sought by ELC is "premature" since the FY08 budget has not yet been adopted.

Nov. 2007

Governor Corzine proposes new school funding law that would eliminate the Abbott distinction. The School Funding Reform Act is approved in a lame-duck session of the Legislature and signed into law in January 2008.

Feb. 2008

NJ Supreme Court gives Governor Corzine and legislators another chance to approve new school construction funds in Abbott XVIII.

Mar. 2008

The state files a motion seeking the state Supreme Court's declaration that the School Funding Reform Act is constitutional and earlier Abbott mandates can be eliminated.

Jul. 2008

Governor Corzine signs legislation to provide $2.9 in state financing for Abbott school facilities.

Nov. 2008

In Abbott XIX , the Supreme Court remands the new school funding law case to a lower court for evidentiary hearings, leaving in place the Abbott remedies.

Mar. 2011 Judge Doyne Remand decision of March 22, 2011.

Based on the chronology on the site of the Education Law Center.