The New Jersey Supreme Court says it will announce its decision Tuesday on a major school funding case that could shape the state's budget and test Gov. Christie's resolve.
At issue is whether cuts in school funding made by Christie and the Legislature amid a budget crunch a year ago violated a provision of the state constitution that calls for all children to be given a "thorough and efficient" education.
If forced by the court to fund the formula fully, the state would have to give schools an additional $1.6 billion, which Christie has said would wreak havoc with the state's finances.
The court has made more than 20 previous rulings over more than two decades in the case, known as Abbott v. Burke. It has consistently found that the state needs to do more to educate children in 31 school districts where poverty is concentrated, including Camden, Burlington City, Pemberton and Gloucester City.
Christie, unlike previous governors, has taken a hard stance against what he sees as judicial meddling in matters that should be his and the Legislature's business.
Christie has cited the case as an example of why he wants to shake up membership of the state Supreme Court. He has said he might consider disregarding the court's ruling if he disagrees with it.
The case's latest chapter dates to last year's state budget. With one-time federal economic stimulus money gone, the state's total subsidies to schools were down about $1 billion. Even after the cuts, New Jersey provided nearly $8 million in school aid, nearly a third of the state's total spending for the year.
Lawyers for the state said New Jersey couldn't afford more, adding that the cuts were deeper in wealthier districts. For the state budget that takes effect July 1, Christie has proposed an additional $250 million for all schools.
The Education Law Center, an advocate for children in the impoverished districts, sued the state. It argued that the state failed to subsidize schools at a level the court previously found acceptable.