Education Dept. rejects ELC repair complaints; Diegnan plans hearings

TRENTON – The state says a non-profit agency is off-base in its call for an investigation into the status of certain repairs at some urban schools.

Meanwhile, one lawmaker said he will pursue the matter further.

The Education Department rejected claims made today by the Education Law Center that necessary repairs are not being done at some of the state’s urban schools.

ELC sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to conduct investigations into the status of hundreds of repairs ELC said are needed but are not being done by DOE or the Schools Development Authority.

Education spokesman Justin Barra said that this matter generally falls under SDA’s authority, and he said that some of the ELC claims are inaccurate.

He said that over the summer personnel from Education and SDA visited all of the sites and they are in the process of prioritizing them.

Barra said some of the repairs are deemed “emergent,’’ meaning, he said, that they are not emergencies but still represent health and safety issues that will need attention.

He said that SDA has a fund of approximately $100 million for these requested repairs.

An SDA spokesperson said they would have no comment.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers have received the ELC requests.

Assembly Education Chairman Patrick Diegnan, (D-18), South Plainfield, said he planned to hold a hearing and get some answers.

In a prepared response, he said: “I commend the Education Law Center for continuing to focus on this outrageous situation.  We are at the halfway point of the Christie Administration and not one school is even scheduled to begin construction. 

“The annual cost of operating the Schools Development Authority is approximately $50 million.  That means that almost $100 million in taxpayer dollars has been spent on repairing a few roofs and dealing with miscellaneous health and safety issues.  Someone must be held accountable.

“I once again intend to conduct a hearing with my legislative colleagues and ask for an accounting.   It is time that this unacceptable and neglectful failure is addressed.”

A spokesperson for Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Teresa Ruiz, (D-29), Newark, said earlier today that she has received the letter and is looking into the matter.

Previous coverage:

ELC wants investigation into non-repairs at urban schools

  Education Dept. rejects ELC repair complaints; Diegnan plans hearings