Trenton, NJ – June 5, 2008

The Legislature will pay out more than $58 million for school construction projects in the upcoming State budget, mostly in the suburbs, an increase of 75% in just two years.

At the same time, the Legislature is considering a measure amending the State Constitution that would shut the door on state funding to rebuild schools in New Jersey’s poorest communities.

This “rank inequality” in state funding for school construction was highlighted by David G. Sciarra, ELC Executive Director, in testimony opposing the proposed constitutional amendment before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

ELC is the leading advocate for improving the deplorable conditions in school buildings in the state’s poor communities, including the urban districts. New Jersey’s urban districts are among the poorest, most racially segregated public schools in the nation.

The proposed constitutional amendment – Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 168 — would prohibit the State from issuing bonds to finance school construction unless the bonds were approved in a statewide vote. The statewide vote requirement is an insurmountable hurdle, thus effectively ending future State support to rebuild crumbling, overcrowded and out-moded schools serving the Garden State’s neediest children.

At the same time the Legislature is poised to end school construction program in poor communities, it will pay over $58 million in FY09 to fund projects in more affluent, suburban towns, without regard to the need for the project. State funding for these projects has increased a staggering 75% in two years, and will continue to grow.

Under current law, the State must pay 40% or more of the debt service on any locally approved school construction bonds. Since only those towns able to pass a local bond are eligible for state aid, suburban, more affluent towns are reaping a windfall from taxpayers, while poor communities with pressing facilities needs are left out in the cold. Abbott districts are legally ineligible for the aid.

ELC is calling on legislators to revise the proposal to exempt school construction from the statewide voter requirement. “Support for the proposed amendment as written is a vote for inequality and unequal treatment of our most vulnerable and needy children,” said Mr. Sciarra. “We need to make sure that we don’t impair the State’s ability to fund urgently needed, and constitutionally required, school facilities improvements,” he added.

To read ELC’s Testimony on ACR 168, click here


Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra
Executive Director
voice: 973 624-1815 x16

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240