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ABBOTT DISTRICTS NOT PREPARED TO REVISE FACILITY PLANS NEXT YEAR

ELC CALLS ON NJDOE TO ISSUE NEW PLANNING RULES

Abbott districts must develop new five-year facility improvement plans next year, but lack guidance from NJDOE on how to perform this critical task. In addition, rules recently proposed by NJDOE fail to address even the most minimal requirements for sound facilities planning, and must be completely overhauled. These findings are contained in a Report on the NJDOE Rules on Long-Range Facilities Plans issued by Education Law Center (ELC) on February 16, 2004.

The proposed rules are under review by the State Board of Education. According to ELC, the rules do not meet the directives for facilities planning in the Abbott V ruling, the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act (EFCFA), and Executive Order No. 24. The rules fail to:

  • Direct districts to adopt a schedule and budget to ensure effective completion of the plans by the EFCFA deadline of October 2005, and to maximize participation of stakeholders in the planning process
  • Instruct districts on conducting a thorough re-assessment of their education program as a foundation for planning new or renovated facilities
  • Provide standards for planning community centered schools
  • Require NJDOE to maintain a reliable, public database to promote community engagement in facilities planning and State and district accountability for effective program implementation

ELC is calling on the State Board to address these, and other deficiencies in the proposed rules. According to ELC Research Director Joan Ponessa, the rules must be revised to correct serious flaws in the current long-range plans prepared in 1999, and to improve overall facilities planning during the next five year construction cycle (2005-2010).

This report marks the second issued by ELC on the NJDOE proposed rules. A January report analyzed the NJDOE failure to address the planning and funding for preschool facilities in Abbott districts.