New Jersey has a chance to provide better schools and jobs

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Jersey has the 38th-worst unemployment rate in the nation, and for construction workers the jobless rate is even worse. At the same time, thousands of school children, their teachers and other staff face serious health and safety hazards and poor learning conditions in buildings that may be more than a hundred years old.

Put these facts together and it becomes obvious that Gov. Chris Christie has a golden opportunity to put New Jersey’s building and construction trades­people to work modernizing our schools and making them safe, energy-efficient, productive learning environments.

In 2008, facing the worst unemployment in generations, the state Legislature authorized nearly $4 billion in funding for school construction and renovation. More than five years later, at least one-third of students in 31 school districts with the worst facilities attend school in buildings that “fail to meet basic health, safety and educational suitability standards,” according to an unpublished Department of Education report obtained after the Education Law Center made an Open Public Records Act request last December.

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