The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Gov. Corzine's school-funding formula today, ruling that the system provides a "thoughtful" attempt to provide a fair level of support for students throughout the state.
It also ruled that the state does not have to provide "supplemental funding" outside of the formula to the so-called Abbott school districts that for years have received the majority of state aid while other districts were left behind.
The ruling impacts school funding in every community in New Jersey.
The two pieces of the decision hand a major victory for Corzine, providing court approval for his overhaul that aimed to do away with the state's two-tiered school funding system. Corzine's plan is the first statewide plan in decades to receive a court approval.
"The State has constructed a fair and equitable means designed to fund the costs of a thorough and efficient education," the court ruled in an opinion written by Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.
"The quality of the effort and the good faith exhibited in the exercise of discretion over and over again at decision-points during [formula's] development lead us to conclude that the legislative effort deserves deference."
The court noted that the formula will soon be reviewed, and said its approval is dependent on the state continuing to provide the level of funding needed for all schools in the state. Critics, notably attorneys for the 31 historically poor, urban Abbott districts, contend that this year the state is already short-changing schools by not providing enough aid through the formula.
Corzine's formula seeks to steer money to districts based on the number of needy students in each school. It has largely helped middle-class districts that for years received only small state aid increases while most of the state funding went to the 31 Abbott districts.
The Abbott schools, which have received the lion's share of state aid for years, would receive largely flat levels of state support under the plan.