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A Myth Grows In The Garden State


Christie's school funding proposal is awful for the reasons you outline, but I think that he is correct in his opinion that the NJ Supreme Court "overcorrected" in the Abbott decisions. If you compare academic performance in the Abbotts with equally poor (or nearly as poor) non-Abbotts who have per student opex budgets that are 50%-60% as high as the Abbotts, inferior facilities, and usually no Pre-K, the Abbotts do not outperform their fiscally disadvantaged non-Abbott peers. The results should be surprising to even someone who is skeptical about spending in general, but even the most financially crippled districts in New Jersey, like East Newark, Dover, and Fairview, outperform the Abbotts who are above Adequacy. Dover, in fact, is academically higher performing than any Abbott even though it spends only $10,600 per student. Christie, unfortunately, made a stupid mistake in comparing Abbott district schools to Abbott charter schools, but had he compared Abbotts to equally poor non-Abbotts, his argument would have been very tough to dismiss. I'm aware that there is research out there that claims that the Abbotts do in fact outperform their non-Abbott demographic peers, but what this research shows is that for a ~50% spending advantage, the Abbotts do about 5% better. (I'm summarizing) That's hardly a strong argument for maintaining Abbott. I believe that money does matter, but the amount the Abbotts spend is beyond the point of effectiveness and since NJ's finances are increasingly limited, the money going to the Abbotts comes at the expense of equally poor and working class non-Abbotts. That's not fair or progressive.

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