Under the golden dome that dominates Trenton’s skyline, Governor Chris Christie recently denounced the deplorable condition of the New Jersey Statehouse. At a hastily convened announcement, Governor Christie bemoaned the quality of building that houses his office. “We have code violations throughout the place that could lead to a tragedy,” Christie told reporters as he outlined plans for the $300 million renovation.

For someone who has spent the last few years avoiding his office, his concern now is curious. While we agree that Statehouse renovations are necessary, the juxtaposition of his decisive approach to that issue with his lackadaisical approach in addressing much worse conditions in schools throughout the state raises serious questions about his priorities. Based on the long delay in releasing funds for rebuilding Trenton Central High School, his failure to act in addressing facility concerns in Paterson, and his foot dragging on other School Development Authority emergent requests, his sudden concern for safe, comfortable and healthy workplaces seems typically self-serving.

At his announcement Tuesday, Christie said, “The Statehouse should not be a place that we ask people to come work in every day and put their lives and their health at some measure of risk… They shouldn’t have to worry about a chimney falling down or a cornice coming off the edge of the building. They shouldn’t have to worry about being unsafe in this building if there was, in fact, a fire.”

He is right. But he is hypocritical for lacking the same concern for students and staff in Trenton, Paterson, and other SDA districts who struggle to work and learn in crumbling schools that make the Statehouse look like Trump Tower. We urge Governor Christie to prove us wrong by dedicating at least $300 million to the Emergent Project Program to address issues that imperil the health and safety of students and staff across the state.

Our children and dedicated school employees have a right to learn and work in healthy and safe school environments.  Their health and safety cannot be less important than renovating the Statehouse.

Full opinion-editorial by Jerell Blakeley, WEC’s Healthy Schools Now campaign organizer, John McEntee, Paterson Education Association President, in The Star Ledger, December 6, 2016.

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