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$3.9 BILLION FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION APPROVED

ABBOTT V. BURKE COURT RULING SPARKS LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Newark, NJ – June 25, 2008

ELC applauded the NJ Legislature’s approval on Monday of $3.9 billion in bond financing for a "second wave" of school construction to replace dilapidated and outmoded school facilities in the state’s poorest communities.

The positive vote caps a nearly three-year advocacy effort by ELC to restart the State’s school construction program after the first round of funding ran out in 2005, leaving dozens of urgently needed school facilities projects on the drawing board.

New Jersey’s school construction program was launched in 2000 to comply with NJ Supreme Court order in the landmark Abbott v. Burke education equity case. The Abbott order directed the State to address deplorable, unsafe and overcrowded conditions in school buildings in poor urban communities, many of which are over 100 years old and educationally inadequate.

After the first round of $8.6 billion in funding was depleted in July 2005, ELC filed three separate actions to enforce the Supreme Court order. In the last action in January 2008, Governor Jon Corzine made a firm commitment to the Court to secure the additional funding no later than June 30th.

"On behalf of our neediest students, we commend the Legislature for taking this courageous action, especially in a tough fiscal climate," said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. "We’ve already built close to 100 new schools in our poorest communities, and now we’re on track to build another 50. These new schools will give thousands of poor and minority children the opportunity they deserve to achieve the State’s tough academic standards."

In addition to targeting funds to urban districts, the legislation approved on Monday allocates $900 million to older suburban, rural and other communities, and directs the NJ Department of Education and School Development Authority to prioritize school building projects based on educational need. ELC pressed vigorously to direct state construction funds to the most urgently needed projects statewide.

The action in Trenton was recognized in Washington DC by Mary Filardo, Director of the 21st Century School Fund and a prominent advocate for improving public school buildings in disadvantaged communities across the United States. "I wish to congratulate the New Jersey Legislature on moving forward $3.9 billion in funding for public school facilities. Unlike other states, New Jersey understands that when students attend school in substandard facilities, those very buildings contribute to the achievement gap. We are grateful for your leadership in rebuilding facilities serving our poorest students and communities."

Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra
Executive Director
email: dsciarra@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x16

Mary Filardo
Director, 21st Century School Fund
email: mfilardo@21csf.org
202 745-3745, ext. 11