SENATOR RUIZ AND ASSEMBLYMAN DIEGNAN ASKED TO HOLD HEARINGS ON HUNDREDS OF STALLED EMERGENT PROJECTS
Education Law Center (ELC) has sent a letter to Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, urging these lawmakers to investigate the Christie Administration’s refusal to address hundreds of emergency health and safety repairs in urban school buildings across the state.
ELC is seeking a thorough review of the Potential Emergent Projects Program (PEPP), a joint initiative of the NJ Department of Education (DOE) and the Schools Development Authority (SDA), launched in June 2011.
In the letter to Senator Ruiz and Assemblyman Deignan, ELC notes that SDA (urban) districts submitted requests to the SDA and DOE for approximately 700 emergent repair projects through the PEPP program. Now six months later, the districts have yet to receive notice of the status of these projects, or any information that these emergencies will actually be addressed by the State.
ELC’s letter states: “These and other concerns require an immediate, thorough and complete investigation, especially given the imminent threat to the health and safety of thousands of children, teachers and other staff using SDA school buildings where these emergent conditions exist every school day.”
The request to legislators for an investigative hearing follows on the January 9 letter from ELC to Bernie Piaia, Director of the Office of School Facilities at DOE, expressing serious concerns with implementation of the PEPP program.
Following release of the January 9 letter, the SDA and DOE revealed that of the over 700 health and safety conditions submitted for remediation, 400 had been rejected. The remaining 300 projects have not been identified to districts, nor has work on them begun.
“DOE and SDA have flagrantly violated their legal obligation to review and address emergency conditions in urban schools on an expedited basis,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “Legislators charged with oversight of the schools construction program need to compel SDA and DOE officials to appear publicly and explain why they are acting without any regard for the health, safety and well-being of our children.”
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