WHEN I TELL colleagues from other countries that schools in most low-income neighborhoods in the United States receive significantly less funding than schools in affluent neighborhoods, they are perplexed. Why, they ask, would children with the greatest educational needs receive less than children with the greatest advantages? In most other Western democracies, it is exactly the opposite.

Because of Abbott v. Burke, New Jersey has defied this unfortunate and inexplicable national pattern. Students in our 31 special needs urban districts — the Abbott districts — receive funding at the levels of the state’s most affluent districts, and have a variety of programs designed to overcome their poverty and educational disadvantage.

That may change, however, if the New Jersey Supreme Court were to adopt Judge Peter E. Doyne’s recent recommendations.

Judge Doyne, serving as a special master, has concluded that the state’s new school funding law, the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA), should be found constitutional so long as supplemental funding continues to be available to the Abbott districts for at least three more years.

Such a decision could reverse Abbott’s extraordinary gains and return New Jersey to the bad old days, when at-risk children failed to receive the resources and programs necessary for them to achieve at the levels required in the 21st century.

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