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NJ LEGISLATURE: GET TO WORK ON FACILITIES FUNDING FOR ALL DISTRICTS, NOT JUST VO-TECHS

June 3, 2019

As the Senate Education Committee holds a hearing on the procedures for approval of grant funds for facilities projects in vocational schools, Education Law Center is renewing its call for the Legislature to begin work on comprehensive legislation to increase funding for school facilities construction and improvements for all school districts across the state.

“The Senate Committee today is ignoring the thousands of students who continue to be educated in unsafe and outmoded school buildings,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “It’s especially disturbing that lawmakers have been aware for years that New Jersey’s school construction program is running out of money and stubbornly refuse to take action.”

The NJ Supreme Court-ordered Abbott School Construction Program has no funds to move any new projects forward in urban, or SDA, districts. The Long Range Facilities Plans for these districts approved by the NJ Department of Education identify a need for 381 additional projects, including 200 school renovations and 102 new school buildings.

In addition, funding for state grants to support construction projects for all other districts, known as Regular Operating Districts or RODs, is also depleted. These grants augmented local funds, enabling districts to pay for needed facilities projects while minimizing the impact on property taxpayers.

“While vocational schools have needs, the SDA and ROD districts have equally urgent needs for facilities upgrades,” said Mr. Sciarra. “It is long past time for legislators to work with all education stakeholders on a comprehensive bill to increase bond financing through the Schools Development Authority to meet the urgent facilities needs of all New Jersey school children.”

ELC, as counsel for the school children in the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation, has placed the State, through the Attorney General, on formal notice that if no action is forthcoming to replenish the school construction fund, the school children will have no recourse but to seek relief from the Supreme Court. In 2006, under threat of legal action in the Abbott case, the Legislature and Governor approved $3.9 billion in new construction funding statewide. Those funds have now been spent or committed.    

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24