Have You Met Rutgers-Newark?

Paul Tractenberg fought for an equal education for New Jersey's urban school children for more than 40 years

Paul Tractenberg, who also was Alfred C. Clapp Distinguished Public Service Professor of Law at the Rutgers School of Law-Newark, spent more than 40 years on the front lines of the fight for an equal education for New Jersey's urban school children. Beginning in 1970 when he joined the law faculty, Tractenberg engaged law students in New Jersey’s school funding reform litigation. In 1973 he founded and directed the Education Law Center, which has served ever since as the voice of the state's urban school children, both in the courts and outside. Through his work at the Education Law Center, Tractenberg has spent almost 30 years on Abbott v. Burke, which New Jersey's judges and lawyers selected overwhelmingly as the most important state court decision of the 20th Century in a survey by The New Jersey Lawyer. In that continuing litigation, the New Jersey Supreme Court has recognized and enforced the nation's most expansive array of constitutional rights for more than 300,000 urban students.

In 2000 Tractenberg’s work on education law and policy took a new direction when he co-founded the Rutgers-Newark Institute on Education Law and Policy, an interdisciplinary research center that draws upon the expertise of other faculty and researchers at Rutgers-Newark's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of Public Affairs and Administration, other units of Rutgers, and other area universities. By 2011 the Institute had issued 16 major reports relating to many of the cutting-edge issues regarding public education, such as school funding and tax reform, school choice, accountability and state intervention in local school districts, education governance innovations including mayoral control, shared services in school districts, identifying and replicating unusually successful urban schools, and the impact of New Jersey’s special assessment as an alternative to the standardized high school graduation test.

Tractenberg also co-directed, with Professor Alan Sadovnik, a distinguished education sociologist, both the Institute on Education Law and Policy and the Newark Schools Research Collaborative. He taught courses or seminars in education law and policy, and contracts, and has authored five books, including a centennial history of the law school, and many reports, papers, articles, and opinion pieces on education law and policy and other topics. Tractenberg’s latest book, published by the Rutgers University Press in 2012, profiles 10 decisions of the New Jersey Supreme Court, including Abbott v. Burke, that “shook the nation.”

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