An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has ruled that the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE), by failing to adhere to expedited timelines for processing requests for emergent repairs to school buildings, “has violated the requirements of the ‘thorough and efficient’ clause of the New Jersey Constitution.”
The December 14 ruling by ALJ Ellen Bass responds to a legal action filed by ELC on behalf of students in NJ’s low-income “SDA districts,” challenging extensive delays by the NJDOE’s Office of School Facilities (OSF) to review and approve hundreds of applications for emergent repairs filed by SDA districts in June 2011. The case also challenged OSF’s failure to “promptly” transmit approved emergent projects to the NJ Schools Development Authority (SDA) for construction.
Judge Bass sharply criticized the OSF’s attempt to explain the months of delay in acting on the emergent projects as caused by the SDA stating that the “OSF’s approach passes the proverbial buck to another agency, one over which it urges it has no authority or control.” Further, Judge Bass makes clear that the EFCFA and the facilities mandate in the landmark Abbott v. Burke equity litigation “directs the DOE, not another agency, to take action to repair school facilities.”
“Many of these dilapidated and dangerous schools are the very same priority and focus schools targeted by NJDOE for fast track academic improvement,” said David G. Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “It is impossible to expect these schools to make educational progress when their students are consigned to a dangerous, unhealthy and inadequate environment in which to learn. We urge Commissioner Cerf not just to affirm Judge Bass’ ruling, but to direct the NJDOE to immediately address all health, safety and other emergent repairs in these school buildings.” [emphasis mine]Cerf and his merry band of Broadies at NJDOE aren't really that interested in making schools safe, however. Their plans call for local disenfranchisement, expansion of segregationist charters, teacher contracts that force undue focus on bubble testing, and whatever else Eli Broad tells them to do. It never seems to occur to these people that having safe, healthy schools is a necessary precondition for educational success. Thankfully, ELC is there to remind them.
Speaking of charters, here's another great project for which we can thank ELC: a charter school data tool. It's actually quite easy to now look at the demographic differences between charters and publics - and with a specificity CREDO was reluctant to employ in their infamous charter report. I'll be referring to this constantly as I blog about charters over the next year.
Again, many thanks to ELC for all they do. Every state should have a group as dedicated to the education of our children as these good folks.