Tag Archive: SDA

Does New Jersey have the Political Will to Help Camden?

Promoted by Rosi. This is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog:

A Camden High School student spoke at my class last semester. He told one particularly poignant story, of how he’d been evicted from his home and had spent a few months living out of a car. Each morning, at 5:45am, his mother would wake him so that he could be the first person to go into the local McDonalds. There, he would brush his teeth and get ready for school.

Among all the stories I’ve heard in Camden, I think this one may be the most important. It is about stability, and how hard it is for young people who lack it to succeed. This student talked about how he never had that stability, how he was constantly moving, until he joined the Junior ROTC program. The stability and structure of going to that program each day after school was what turned his life around.

This young man isn’t alone in his need for stability. Camden City as a whole desperately needs sustained commitment from the state of New Jersey. Because Camden runs a significant annual deficit, it is constantly in need of state support. The politics of giving that support can make or break the city.

Why did the Governor cross the road?

-1About a dozen “chickens” have arrived at the Statehouse. With Chris Christie’s name on them. It’s a student protest from the kids at from TCNJ college students on behalf of kids from Trenton Central High School because their Governor is too chicken to ride down the street and face them for a frank talk about their school.

They call it the Tasty Chicken Brigade.

Trenton Central High School has black mold, and some of its ceilings are falling down. The walls are crumbling. And when the roof leaks, which is often, it sets off the fire alarms. This is where  the students go to school. Five days a week.

Barbara Buono has seen it; the stairwell students call “the waterfall,” the plywood that substitutes for solid flooring. And she’s called on the Governor to release SDA funds to take care of the situation. Numerous legislators – including Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Bonnie Watson Coleman and Sen. Shirley Turner – have tried to get Gov. Christie to come to the school and visit and talk to his constituents, the kids who go there and the educators who teach there.

IMG_9570Even the high school students have had to take to the streets to rally for their own health and well-being, saying they need to be their own advocates in the face of the state’s failure to help them.

But Christie is, essentially, ignoring all this, as he does his campaign bus victory laps talking to adoring Republicans about how great a job he says he did rebuilding after a hurricane.

Good for the students. My favorite sign is the “give a cluck” one, below the fold.

Trenton School Board Sues the State!

promoted by Rosi

As my colleague Sen. Shirley Turner told the Trentonian, the Trenton Board of Education will now be suing the State. They’re taking this step after almost a decade of community activists, parents, Trenton Central High School teachers and legislators trying to get the State funding to fix or to rebuild TCHS’s decaying structure.

This law suit is long overdue. Trenton has been on the waiting list for SDA (School Development Authority) funding for too long.  Sure, Trenton folks would like to pay for school construction projects on its own, but it gets little state funding now. Remember, suburban schools were offered 40% for their school construction costs while formerly-Abbott districts (30 urban schools) were promised 100%. Notwithstanding, if the State paid its fair share of property taxes on all its State buildings in the capital city it is estimated that it would be $40 million.  It used to do so in the form of PILOT (Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Property-Taxes), but it has eroded over time and under the current Administration there is no PILOT.  

Whatever happened with the Schools Construction Corporation?

My local paper has a story on a local school that won’t be replaced:

The John Fenwick Elementary School here, unfortunately, was not one of those on the list… The John Fenwick School is about 66 years old, and students must walk through classrooms instead of hallways to get to their own rooms, Michel said.  

In 2005, plans were initially put on hold as funding for the state’s special needs districts dissolved. Then in 2008, the school was allotted $40.6 million through the SDA’s capital plan to build a new school.

Needless to say, the money has still never appeared. There must be many schools around the state in the same boat. I’m not going to complain about Governor Christie here. I want to complain that as far as I can tell, there’s never been a true accounting for where the billions of dollars went under the old School Construction Company. Yes, I know it was replaced by a new entity. The online reports on the SCC from the state OIG simply identify the potential for fraud and waste. Was anyone ever prosecuted?

Students are still paying the price to this day and will be for years to come.