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ABBOTT IS BRIGHT SPOT FOR NJ POOR CHILDREN

Newark, NJ — June 4, 2008

Over the past five years, living conditions haven’t improved much for poor children in New Jersey, according to the latest Kids Count report. But public education has been one bright spot in this otherwise troubling picture.

On June 2nd, the Association for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released the latest Kids Count report, a compilation of data on the status of children around the State. According to the report, the percentage of children living in poverty did not vary appreciably between 2002 and 2006.

But the report documented significant jumps in education indicators. In poor school districts, about 75% of third graders passed the State standardized math test in 2007, as compared with 58% in 2004. In addition, the enrollment of close to 50,000 children in preschool represented a 10% increase over five years.

"The latest Kids Count data shows again that the Abbott remedies are working," said David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center (ELC), which represents students in the 31 poor, urban school districts known as Abbotts. "The Kids Count report adds to the growing evidence of academic gains in Abbott schools and provides a striking contrast between poverty and education indicators."

"Now we need the Governor, legislators and State education officials to pay careful attention to the mounting evidence that Abbott works and to make certain these remedies are strengthened, not dismantled," Sciarra added.

 

The Abbott remedies are tailored to tackle the daunting challenge of improving the quality of education and academic performance in public schools that are among the poorest and most segregated in the nation. That’s why the NJ Supreme Court’s Abbott decisions are considered the most important since Brown v. Board of Education over 50 years ago.

Yet, incredibly, the historic progress made possible by Abbott is now under siege. The State’s new school funding formula (the School Funding Reform Act of 2008), passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Corzine in January, reduces resources to Abbott schools and students and removes Court-imposed mandates targeting funding to research-proven programs and reforms, such as intensive early literacy, drop-out prevention and middle and high school restructuring.

Attorney General Anne Milgram has asked the Supreme Court to lift the Abbott remedies, asserting that they are "no longer necessary." ELC is currently opposing the Attorney General’s request, and ACNJ has joined that battle, submitting an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief citing data from previous Kids Count reports. The education gains documented in the latest report lend further credence to ACNJ’s strong support for the Abbott schoolchildren.

For more information about ACNJ and Kids Count, visit www.acnj.org.

To learn more about the current round of Abbott litigation, see "Poor Children Still Need Court Protection."

Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra
Executive Director
email: dsciarra@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x16