In a letter sent to New Jersey’s Attorney General last month, the Education Law Center, counsel to the plaintiffs in the 31 poor urban districts covered by the orders of the State Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke claimed that the State Development Authority (SDA) lacks sufficient funding to complete 200 major school facilities projects and to build 102 new schools approved in long-range facilities plans approved by the State Department of Education. The SDA has spent or committed all of the $2.9 billion in financing authorized by the Legislature in 2008. Plaintiffs are also asking the state to update its statewide strategic plan and the Department of Education’s needs assessment of critical educational space deficiencies. as required by state statutes and applicable court orders.
In the Abbott litigation, the New Jersey Supreme Court had ruled that adequate school facilities are a critical component of the State’s constitutional obligation to provide students in these districts a “thorough and efficient” education. In a 2005 ruling, the Court made clear that the State has an ongoing constitutional obligation to regularly update school construction priorities and cost estimates in the Abbott districts to ensure all parties have “the requisite information to assess the progress of school facilities construction and the need for further appropriations.”