N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy said the State of New Jersey is releasing $75 million to schools across the state to help meet emergent and capital maintenance needs. (Tariq Zehawi photo)
As part of his commitment to ensuring a high-quality education for every student in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy on Nov. 19 announced that $75 million in funding will be distributed to school districts across the state to help meet emergent and capital maintenance needs.
In addition, the money is intended to address COVID-19 concerns to help schools ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for students.
Because every school district in the Garden State will receive funding, the projects also will support union jobs in all corners of New Jersey.
"In order to ensure New Jersey remains the number one school system in the nation, we must ensure our schools have the tools they need for students to succeed," Murphy said during a visit to the Garfield School District, which will receive $853,224.
"The funds we are announcing today are critical for making sure our schools remain safe and welcoming spaces for our kids and educators and for ensuring that our school buildings can meet the needs of the future," he added. "I am also proud to say that these projects will support union jobs throughout New Jersey."
All school districts will receive a portion of the funding, which will be administered by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA). Of the $75 million, $50 million will be distributed to the state's 31 SDA districts, and $25 million will be appropriated to regular operating districts (RODs).
Murphy was joined in Garfield by acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillian and Manuel Da Silva, chief executive officer of the SDA, both of whom spoke about the new funding.
"School districts share our goal of providing students with healthy and safe learning spaces, which is especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Allen-McMillan. "I commend Gov. Murphy and the [SDA] for the foresight in making this a priority in the budget."
Da Silva noted in his remarks that the SDA is "committed to ensuring that New Jersey's educational facilities best support the needs of students through healthy and safe learning environments. We are excited to continue our work through the administration of this grant program for ROD and SDA school districts, allowing them to make important and necessary improvements to their school facilities."
State lawmakers also were on hand to tout Murphy's allocation to the state's schools.
"Today's announcement begins to move us in the right direction and sends the signal that New Jersey is paying attention to our schools' outdated infrastructure," commented state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee. "While this will address some immediate projects, there is still much to be done to ensure all our students have a safe, suitable learning environment. There must also be discussion about investment in tangible short-term and long-term solutions."
Ruiz's colleague in the New Jersey Legislature, Sen. Nellie Pou wants the new funds to be allocated to ensure that schools in low-income or working-class neighborhoods can give "the same opportunities, facilities and first-class classrooms that more affluent districts take for granted."
She added, "Indeed, the maintenance and, where needed, construction of new buildings, classrooms, chemistry labs, band rooms, audio visual studios or athletic facilities should be the same for every child in New Jersey, in order that we as a state live up to the letter and spirit of the words and the promise in our state Constitution, ‘provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient' education for every child in the state."
In a statement, New Jersey Assemblymembers Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly noted, "In Paterson, 18 school buildings are over 100 years old and need more attention than newly constructed buildings. Under the new pandemic driven standards, many schools have struggled to fund the construction enhancements such as new ventilation systems. This funding will greatly propel school improvement projects in New Jersey and allow us to make upgrades to the schools that need it most."
The monies designated for New Jersey schools also will be invested in infrastructure to put state residents to work, according to Bergen County Building Trades President Rick Sabato.
"The funding announced by [Gov. Murphy] will both support our schools and the hardworking men and women in our building trades," Sabato remarked at the Nov. 19 announcement in Garfield. "I thank the governor for his continued investment in our state and our people."
Besides being able to use the funds for emergent and capital maintenance needs, and measures related to COVID-19, a school district can use the funds to offset appropriate project costs incurred this fiscal year, according to Murphy's office.
A complete list of all districts and their allocations is available online at https://www.nj.gov/education/facilities/docs/SDA/DistrictAllocationChart_FY22_NJSDA_Emergent_CapitalMaintenance_Grant.pdf
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