New Jersey's Decades-Long School Finance Case: So, What's the Payoff?
Published in Policy
On November 11 at a forum at Teachers College, four legal and education specialists assessed how successful the Abbott districts have been in providing equitable educational opportunities, and what the future holds for them as they lose their special-funding status.
The panel was sponsored by the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College and introduced by Michael Rebell, the campaign’s founding executive director and the lead attorney for plaintiffs in an important educational equity lawsuit in
The first speaker, David Sciarra, executive director of the
Sciarra, whose organization serves as a legal watchdog for the Abbott districts, said the gap in state math test scores between fourth graders in Abbott districts and non-Abbott districts narrowed from 31 points in 1999 to 19 points in 2007, and on state reading tests from 22 points in 2001 to 15 points in 2007. Success in eighth grade was more modest, narrowing from 30 points in 2000 for math in 2000 to 26 points in 2007, and staying at 20 points for reading during the same years. The achievement gap has not narrowed in high schools, but
“The truth is, we have started to make some real progress,” Sciarra said. “When people ask, ‘what did Abbott do,’ I say, we still have a long way to go, but the answer is, a heck of a lot.”
Gordon MacInnes, a fellow at the Century Foundation who oversaw implementation of the Abbott decisions as Assistant Commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Education from 2002 to 2007, delivered a mixed assessment. The gap in “life chances” between poor and middle-class and wealthy students in
MacInnes said Abbott, “arguably the most important judicial decision in education since Brown v. Board of Education” in 1954, has resulted in some meaningful changes in individual school districts for certain groups, such as free, high-quality preschools for three- and four-year olds. And some Abbott districts such as
Unlike the other speakers, who are long-time fighters for educational equity in
But funding formulas and new programs will not solve the problems of poor students unless there are policies in place that support them, Janey said. Even with extra Abbott funding, he had to tighten graduation reporting and attendance requirements in
Education reform, Janey said, “has to do with the graduating class, and each step toward the graduating class, and how we are all accountable, but together.”
The forum was one of a series on education equity sponsored by the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College. The next forum, Reframing Family Involvement: Supporting Families to Support Educational Equity,” will be held on December 3 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in Milbank Chapel at Teachers College.previous page