New Jersey Supreme Court Orders Even More Spending on Mismanaged School Districts in Abbott v. Burke

Thanks to New Jersey’s Supreme Court, that state’s hopelessly-mismanaged (and sometimes corrupt) urban school districts will be getting even more money. In a 3-to-2 ruling today in Abbott v. Burke, it ordered New Jersey’s legislature and governor to increase spending on these money-wasting school districts by $500 million, blocking Governor Chris Christie’s attempts to reduce the rate of increase in state spending. The state supreme court’s order to increase spending on the so-called “Abbott” districts flouted both constitutional separation of powers principles barring judicially-imposed spending, and the fact that the state constitution only requires a “thorough and efficient” system of public schools.

It is anything but “efficient” to throw more money at dysfunctional school districts that already have more money to spend per student than the average school district in the state — or country. New Jersey already spends $17,800 per student, among the highest in America, and spending in Newark, a supposedly “disadvantaged” Abbott district, is far higher, at $23,000. Audits found that these districts waste 29 percent of their money. If the New Jersey Supreme Court really cared about the state constitutional guarantee of “efficient” schools, it would root out wasteful spending in the schools, instead of ordering even more such spending.

The Court’s 3-to-2 vote was the result of the New Jersey Senate blocking Gov. Christie from appointing a new justice to the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy, resulting in a temporary vacancy on the Court. The liberal Chief Justice then temporarily assigned a liberal judge, Judge Stern, to fill the resulting vacancy. (One of the state supreme court justices, Justice Rivera-Soto, says that temporary assignment violates New Jersey’s Constitution.)