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POL3210: Politics of U.S. Education: NJ Education Policy - Abbott V. Burke

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NJ Education Policy: Abbott v. Burke Resources

A key component of any education policy - and its associated politics - is the funding of schools. In 1981, the Education Law Center filed a complaint in New Jersey Superior Court on behalf of 20 children attending public schools in the cities of Camden, East Orange, Irvington, and Jersey City. The lawsuit challenged New Jersey’s system of financing public education under the Public School Education Act of 1975. This case, which eventually made its way to the state Supreme Court, led in 1985 to the first of a series of decisions known collectively as Abbott v. Burke.

In the Abbott v. Burke cases, the Education Law Center argued that New Jersey's existing method of funding public schools was unconstitutional because it caused significant expenditure disparities between poor urban and wealthy suburban school districts, and that poorer urban districts were unable to adequately meet the educational needs of their students. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed, and in its Abbott rulings the Court has compelled the State to act so as to reduce inequalities in school funding and ensure that students across the state receive public education in accordance with New Jersey’s state constitution.

Some important resources for research on Abbott v. Burke  include:

  • The Education Law Center's Abbott v. Burke pages, containing details on the policy's history, court decisions and legal document archives, and the Abbott districts

  • The New Jersey Supreme Court's Abbott v. Burke Case Documents page

  • The New Jersey State Department of Education's Abbott History Archives page, containing many useful policy documents critical to understanding the history of the policy and its implementation

Subject Guide

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Richard Kearney
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