Gov. Phil Murphy appearing in Garfield on Nov. 19 to announce new funding for public schools. (Courtesy of the governor’s office)
Each of New Jersey’s 686 school districts will receive some funding for building maintenance and construction projects, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday.
The state Schools Development Authority (SDA) will distribute $75 million to school districts across the state, with $50 million going to the 31 SDA districts, known as Abbott districts, that are home to some of the state’s poorest communities. The remaining $25 million will go to all other districts.
The funds can be used for emergency upgrades and other infrastructure projects, including for COVID-19 updates. Many schools had to modernize or add HVAC systems and spend extra for sanitizing supplies to get kids back in school during the pandemic.
The grants range from around $1,300 to more than $300,000 for non-SDA districts. The SDA grants start at roughly $200,000 and top out at more than $4 million. Across the state:
- Elizabeth schools were given the largest grant, $4,790,521;
- Jersey City will receive $4,516,719;
- Paterson is getting $4,499,987;
- Edison will receive $393,418, one of the largest amounts for non-SDA districts;
- Cherry Hill is getting $263,017;
- Parsippanany-Troy Hills will receive $171,417.
Garfield, the Bergen County city where Murphy made the announcement Friday, will receive $852,224. Superintendent Anna Sciacca said the district’s biggest issue is overcrowding, and she hopes for more funding to build a new school and get students out of trailer and basement classrooms.
“It’s fair to say that our district, like some others throughout the state, is plagued with issues that relate to aging schools, since six out of seven elementary schools in Garfield are over 100 years old,” Sciacca said.
The funding was included in the $46 billion state budget Murphy signed in June. The SDA and Department of Education are distributing the money using an “equitable formula,” Murphy said.
Murphy was joined by acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, who said the funding “ensures the infrastructure of our education system mirrors that of the education quality transpiring in those facilities” and creates a greater path toward equity for students regardless of where they attend school.
Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), who pushed for the funding, echoed her statements. As a native of Paterson, she said, she knows some students are still going to schools that were built in the late 18th Century and are in desperate need of upgrades.
“These aren’t just critical funds to ensure our schools remain safe and welcoming spaces for our kids and educators … but what’s more is that every single one of these dollars is a dollar in property tax relief,” Murphy said.
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