Students from throughout the Newark school system walked out of class and assembled at City Hall and Military Park to protest Gov. Chris Christie's proposed budget cuts Tuesday, April 27, 2010, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Joe Epstein)
The Education Law Center, a Newark-based group that represents children in the state's poorest communities, says Christie's proposal is contrary to the school funding plan approved last year by the state's top court.
Education funding has been before the court for decades. The justices have repeatedly found that the state has an obligation under the state constitution to do more for the poorest schools.
As a result, those districts are among the best funded in the state. Because of the court rulings, they offer free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, and the state has been paying for new school buildings and major upgrades to existing facilities.
Still, several of the districts lag far behind in test scores and graduation rates.
Last year, the court found a new approach by the administration of then-Gov. Jon Corzine which ended special treatment for the poorest districts but still gave extra funds to schools with high concentrations of children from low-income families.
The Education Law Center says Christie is not honoring that approach with cuts he has proposed. In his proposed state budgets, he's calling for schools to get $820 million less for the coming school year than they did this year.
Christie says the cuts are necessary to balance a state budget battered by increasing debt and decreasing tax revenue.
Christie and the New Jersey Education Association, the state's main teachers union, have quarreled over the cuts, which are likely to lead to layoffs of thousands of educators. Christie says the layoffs could be avoided if teachers and other school workers would agree to voluntary wage freezes.
Christie has said that school funding should be decided by elected officials, not judges.