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Are NJ’s Poorest Schools Getting Short-Changed? [AUDIO]

Yesterday, we were telling you how the head of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority – during testimony before a subcommittee in Trenton – told lawmakers the SDA has turned itself around, and is constructing and repairing more schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods than ever before.

Flickr User Dan Gravell

However, a coalition of community groups -banding together as Healthy Schools Now – is disputing that claim.

“Many schools have leaking roofs, boilers, mold asbestos, windows that don’t open, HVAC issues,” according to the Executive Director of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee, Liz Smith.

She says the SDA has been extremely unresponsive to these kinds of complaints for years, and the result is young children in kindergarten and first grade in situations that are really untenable.

“We know there is an increased incidence of – for example, respiratory concerns, primary, especially with the mold,” she says, “This shouldn’t be happening…There’s this sort of shell game going on, where you shuffle where the responsibility lays.”

The Healthy Schools Now campaign includes the following organizations:

  • Statewide Education Organizing Committee
  • Save Our Schools NJ
  • Ironbound Community Corporation
  • Education Law Center
  • Abbott Leadership Institute
  • Better Plan for Trenton High School
  • Our Children, Our Schools Network
  • The Latino Institute
  • NJ Environmental Federation
  • Oranges & Maplewood NAACP
  • NJ Working Families Alliance
  • NJ Education Association
  • Newark Teachers Union (AFT Local 481)
  • Paterson Education Association
  • American Federation of Teachers NJ
  • Union of Rutgers Administrators, AFT Local 1766

A spokesman for the New Jersey Schools Development Authority insists claims by Healthy Schools Now are not accurate.

A statement released by the SDA reads in part that the organization, “emphatically disagrees with the false characterizations of SDA’s pace with regards to emergent projects. In fact, more emergent projects have been completed under the Christie Administration than any prior administration. Since 2010 SDA has completed 32 SDA-managed emergent projects valued at approximately $25 million.”

It also states, “SDA has taken proactive steps to shorten the time for completion of emergent projects. Under this administration, SDA has established architecture, environmental and contractor pools to try to accelerate the work by shortening the procurement times.”

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