Court Rules N.J. Governor Must Fund Low Income Schools

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he will not defy Tuesday’s state Supreme Court ruling to increase aid to low-income school districts, but called the decision legally faulty and bad education policy.

He said it will be up to the Legislature to decide how to do it as it wrestles with the state budget over the next five weeks, and added he would veto the budget if he doesn’t like the Legislature’s approach.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in a 3-2 decision Tuesday that the state must increase its funding to low-income school districts by an estimated $500 million. The ruling was the latest in the state’s long-running court battle over spending in poor schools, known as Abbott v. Burke.

That’s almost exactly the amount state says it has in a windfall from tax revenues coming in higher than expected. But Christie has said he wanted to use that money for other purposes, including property tax rebates.

Christie said the ruling represented “everything that’s wrong with how Trenton has historically operated.”

He said he does not believe that an additional $500 million will not make a difference in schools that already receive about 10 times that much in state aid each year.

Christie previously said he would consider defying the court if he disagreed with the much-anticipated ruling. But on Tuesday, he downplayed that comment, made on a radio show, saying that it was just one option.

Christie had warned for weeks that he feared the court would order the state to put another $1.6 billion toward schools. That’s how much a judge found it would cost to run the state’s full school funding formula.

If that happened, he said, the consequences could be dire, with money for town governments and hospitals on the line.

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