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DISTRICTS AND ELC CHALLENGE ABBOTT RULES IN NJ SUPREME COURT

ELC RENEWS CALL FOR SPECIAL MASTER

A group of Abbott districts and Education Law Center have filed an emergency motion asking the NJ Supreme Court to invalidate the Abbott regulations adopted by Education Commissioner William Librera on May 25, 2004.

After adopting the regulations without notice, the Commissioner directed the NJ Department of Education to apply the rules retroactively to the Abbott district budgets for 2004-05 submitted in March. On May 28th, the DOE issued budget decisions based on the disputed rules, cutting millions in supplemental program and funding requests from district budgets. Fourteen districts then filed administrative appeals challenging the decisions and the Commissioner’s May regulations.

In the motion to the Supreme Court, the appealing districts and ELC argue that the Commissioner’s May regulations violate:

  • A general prohibition in New Jersey law against applying changes in law retroactively
  • The Abbott V ruling and the 2003 Abbott X mediation order requiring implementation of demonstrably needed supplemental programs and funding in 2004-05.

The districts and ELC submitted a chart to the Court identifying the specific provisions in the May regulations that violate the Abbott rulings and orders.

In a letter to the Court, ELC also renews its request for appointment of a Special Master to supervise the development of new regulations consistent with Abbott, and oversee future implementation of Abbott supplemental programs. "These latest actions by the Commissioner and DOE repudiate their own commitments made a year ago to ELC, Mediation Judge Carchman and the Supreme Court. A Special Master is the only way now to ensure proper implementation of all needed programs," said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and Abbott counsel.

In going directly to the Supreme Court, the districts and ELC are following a procedure recommended by the Appellate Division in a January 2004 decision on the districts 2003-04 budgets. The districts, supported by ELC, are also asking the Court to hold up the administrative budget appeals until ruling on the validity of the Commissioner’s regulations.