The New York Times reports today on an ongoing dispute about the economics and politics of school construction in New Jersey, specifically the allocation of billions of dollars to renovate old buildings rather than addressing educational shortcomings.
On the side of home rule, we have Steven Lonegan, state director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that advocates limits on government, who has sued to block the sale of bonds to finance school construction. Mr. Lonegan harumphs,
Local governments built their schools in New Jersey for over 200 years, As soon as the state got involved, costs skyrocketed, corruption ran rampant and taxpayers suffered.
On the side of State control, we have the newly-overhauled and newly-monikered Schools Development Authority. This state agency is charged with cleaning up the corruption and waste that has marked school construction since the Abbott decisions ruled that poor districts deserve the same facilities as wealthy districts.
(Here’s a sense of the (mis)management of the earlier permutation of this agency, which was called the Schools Construction Corporation: The Times quotes a 2005 audit by the state’s inspector general, which noted “mismanagement, fiscal malfeasance, conflicts of interest and waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”)
In defense, Scott Weiner, CEO of the Schools Development Authority since 2006, explains,
We like to think of ourselves as a better-evolved, turned-around school construction program.
Meanwhile, Corzine has just signed legislation authorizing another $3.9 billion for school construction.