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SUPREME COURT FAST-TRACKS DISTRICT BUDGET APPEALS AND DIRECTS NEW FUNDING FOR FACILITIES

In an order issued today, the NJ Supreme Court clarified its Abbott order of May 9, 2006. The Court set a fourteen day time limit for State Education Department (NJDOE) decisions on Abbott district budgets and applied preexisting time frames for district budget appeals to the new deadline. This means that any Abbott district denied additional funds for programs to meet student need will have those appeals handled quickly.

The Court also directed NJDOE to fund the opening expenses for all new and renovated school facilities that come "online" in FY 2007 by applying the $23 million that DOE will collect in increased tax levies from designated Abbott districts and providing the additional necessary funds above the districts' flat budgets. To ensure that facilities are funded, the Court also provided districts with a right to appeal on the basis that "necessary funding has not been made available."

Attorney General Zulima Farber represented to the Supreme Court on May 2nd that the State would make additional funding available for new school costs, and not require districts to meet these costs through further program and staffing cuts.

The 31 urban or "Abbott" districts serve 350,000 mostly poor and minority public school children, starting with preschool at age 3. ELC serves as counsel to these school children in the landmark Abbott v. Burke case.