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New Jersey's school-finance-suit debacle

For 25 years, the New Jersey Supreme Court has used the vehicle of a school-finance lawsuit known as Abbott v. Burke to drag the students, teachers and families of the state through an "ambitious court-ordered social experiment to narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor students, whites and minorities". Yesterday the New York Times surveyed the wreckage that has resulted. In some poor cities, spending has skyrocketed but achievement is still dismal: Asbury Park spent $18,661 per student in the 2004-5 school year as against a statewide average of $10,509. The Camden school district is wracked with scandal, as local officials have apparently helped themselves to some of the money sloshing around. Meanwhile, a contrasting "success story" under the lawsuit is by no means free from ambiguity: residents of Garfield have repeatedly voted down school taxes over the years, but court-ordered payments from Trenton have come to the rescue, and now the schools have improved courtesy of statewide taxpayers, who get to shell out for both their schools and Garfield's. Quoth Bastiat: "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."

More on school finance lawsuits here.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.