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Argued September 25, 2001

This is the second motion in aid of litigants’ rights filed by the Education Law Center (ELC or plaintiffs) since the Court decided Abbott v. Burke, 153 N.J. 480 (1998) (Abbott V). See Abbott v. Burke, 163 N.J. 95 (2000) (Abbott VI). As before, the ELC alleges that the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) has failed to comply with the Court’s mandate in Abbott V, and now Abbott VI, and requests that we order specific relief in respect of preschool programs in the Abbott districts, including the appointment of a judge of the Superior Court to hear and resolve anticipated disputes. For the reasons set forth in this opinion and in our Order of October 22, 2001, we have provided a schedule for decision-making by the Executive Branch and by our Appellate Division to ensure that Abbott districts’ preschool program and budget proposals are timely reviewed and that “final dispositions are issued in time for the 2002-2003 school year.” Abbott v. Burke, No. M-1131, at 3 (N.J. Oct. 22, 2001) (October Order). We have, however, declined to appoint a Standing Master for Abbott matters. Having “commit[ted] in Abbott V and Abbott VI to use of the administrative process established by the Legislature for Executive Branch decision-making,” we find no reason to retreat from that commitment now. Ibid.

This opinion amplifies our October Order and clarifies further our direction in Abbott VI.

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