NJ Supreme Court Denies Motion To Reopen Abbott & Eliminate Seniority In SDA Districts

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The state Supreme Court has denied a motion by the Christie administration to revisit the Abbott v. Burke school funding case, including a request to ignore teacher tenure rules.

Details of the Filing

Back in September, the state Attorney General’s Office, at Gov. Chris Christie’s direction, filed documents requesting the New Jersey Supreme Court reopen the landmark Abbott v. Burke case.

Specifically, the filing asked the Court for far reaching power in the 28 SDA districts that receive higher levels of state aid. Among the requests, a “freeze” of state aid at current levels under the funding formula to allow the Executive and Legislature to develop a new formula to replace the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 which the Court approved as constitutional.

The same filing asked for the authority to over-ride terms of collective bargaining agreements and the law requiring teacher layoffs by seniority, under the auspices that it is a core impediment to urban schools’ improvement.  The motion argued that the current tenure mandates ‘impeded the ability of schools in poor districts to offer students a “thorough and efficient” education.’

Court Response

The Court’s order today denied the Administration’s proposed order to reopen the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation. ELC, counsel to the plaintiff school children, vigorously opposed the Governor’s action.

In denying the Governor’s motion, the Court noted the challenges to collective bargaining and seniority in layoffs “have not been subject to prior litigation in the Abbott line of cases.”

The Court, in its order, “declines to exercise original jurisdiction” to hear the motion “in the first instance,” thus deciding not to consider the merits of the Governor’s request.

Denying the Governor’s request to freeze school funding means that the Court’s directives in the Abbott XX (2009) and Abbott XXI (2011) rulings require the State to continue to use the SFRA formula to fund New Jersey’s public schools remain in full force and effect.