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REFUSAL TO FUND STALLED PROJECTS PROMPTS ABBOTT COURT ACTION

Newark, NJ – October 2, 2007

Children of dilapidated and overcrowded urban public schools filed legal action today asking the NJ Supreme Court to set December 31st as the deadline for the Legislature to provide the funding needed to restart numerous stalled construction projects.

The court filing follows continuing inaction to address the State shut-down in 2005 of numerous of urban school facilities projects due to a lack of funding. Over a year ago, the State school construction agency requested $3.25 billion in "stop gap" funding from the Legislature and, last May, the Supreme Court indicated that it expected action to provide new construction funds by June 30th.

Despite these requests, and the urgent need, Governor Jon Corzine’s administration and the Legislature have taken no action to secure the additional funds, and no action is planned for the foreseeable future.

Last week, the Corzine administration turned down a request from ELC – legal counsel to the urban school children – to work cooperatively to pass legislation authorizing the stop-gap construction funds in the post-election or "lameduck" session of the Legislature.

"We file with the Court today as a last resort, out of frustration with the continuing lack of action in Trenton to provide the funding necessary to restart long overdue and urgently needed building projects," said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and Abbott counsel. "We are also disappointed in the administration’s unwillingness to help us eliminate the deplorable conditions endured by so many of our neediest school children in the upcoming legislative session."

"We hope this action prompts the Governor, Senate President Richard Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts to put construction funding on the Fall legislative agenda. We’re ready to work with them, and with education, labor and business groups, to get stop-gap funding approved by year’s end, and then to work on a long-term financing program to meet facilities needs in the future," Mr. Sciarra said.

The SCC initially identified 59 "priority projects" that would proceed with the remaining funds, but recently announced that it had funds for only 32 of those projects, leaving 27 stranded. This is in addition to 97 other projects "under development" that have been stalled for over two years, and many more in the approval pipeline.

"While we understand the State’s fiscal problems, leaving these projects stranded makes no economic sense," said Mr. Sciarra. "Millions have already been sunk into the projects and, with construction costs rising, the price-tag goes up every day. School construction also generates substantial wage, sales, and other revenue for the treasury. And, most importantly, we must make sure every child attends a school that is safe, not overcrowded, and sufficient to deliver the high quality education he or she deserves."

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


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