Concerned about the state’s failure to adequately fund current facilities needs, Plaintiffs in the long-pending Abbott v. Burke litigation filed a motion last month asking the New Jersey Supreme Court (which has retained jurisdiction of the case) to issue a remedial order directing the State to promptly complete a revised “statewide strategic plan” for priority school construction projects, and to fund the facilities projects contained in the revised plan.
In the late 1990s, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that there was overwhelming evidence of “dilapidated, unsafe, and overcrowded facilities,” and that these were among “the most significant problems facing the poor urban districts. At that time, the Court issued an order requiring the State to establish an on-going system for facilities planning and to fully fund priority projects identified in five year plans the State Education Department would develop with input from the school districts.
The plaintiffs allege that the State is not meeting current priority needs and has failed to provide funding for new projects. They allege that 15 districts lack the necessary capacity to adequately deliver the core curriculum content standards in multiple grade groups. At least 23 projects in the Commissioner’s 2019 needs assessment were on the 2011 strategic plan, meaning they have been considered “priority” projects for nearly a decade but cannot move to construction because of a lack of funding. Although plaintiffs had been negotiating with state officials for the past few months to resolve these issues, they have now informed the Court that judicial intervention is necessary maintain the momentum of improving unsafe, overcrowded and inadequate facilities in Abbott districts and to “to prevent a grave constitutional default.”