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3-7-13In the News - Subcontracting bill Issue...School Construction Numbers
Philadelphia Inquirer - Sen. Diane Allen pulls her name off school subcontracting bill

NJ Spotlight - By the Numbers: Lots of Money, Fewer Projects at School-Construction Agency…Only one project begun since 2010, despite millions spent by School Development Authority

Philadelphia Inquirer  -  Sen. Diane Allen pulls her name off school subcontracting bill

By David Levinsky Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 5:45 am

TRENTON — State Sen. Diane Allen has pulled her name from a bill she wrote that would prevent school districts, state universities and colleges from privatizing or subcontracting services in the middle of existing labor agreements after the proposal was changed without her consent.

Without Allen’s support for the altered bill, none of the five Republicans on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted to support it during Monday’s hearing. Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-29th of Newark, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, also abstained.

The bill was still approved by a 7-5 vote and goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, originally authored Bill 1191 and pushed for its approval during a Senate Education Committee hearing last month, arguing that it would not prevent schools and colleges from saving money through subcontracting but would simply force them to wait until any existing labor contract expires.

The bill would also require school districts, colleges and universities to give unions or collective bargaining groups at least three months’ notice of their intentions to seek a subcontracting agreement impacting existing employees as well as provide unions an opportunity to negotiate for an alternative.

“This bill is about one simple thing: fairness,” Allen said during the Feb. 21 hearing. “Either we believe contracts mean something or we don’t.”

The measure was approved 4-1 by the Senate Education Committee despite arguments from the New Jersey School Boards Association and organizations representing the state’s universities and colleges that the bill would make it substantially more difficult for them to save money through subcontracting.

But the debate took on a new political dimension Monday when the bill was altered without Allen’s consent before being posted before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The most significant change was the addition of a provision that would require school districts that privatize custodial or food services to join a countywide purchasing system that would be responsible for negotiating agreements for all districts in that county.

The requirement would apply only if a county decided to create such a co-op.

Supporters of the change said the bill retains the original’s intent of preserving existing labor agreements and also promotes shared services among school districts. By joining a county purchasing system, school districts could potentially save more through greater bargaining leverage and economy of scale, supporters argued.

Several Burlington County school districts have privatized some services, but information was not available Wednesday on exactly how many now subcontract for food or custodial services.

“By providing school districts this option, it will maximize their ability to find cost savings,” Kevin Brown, state director for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents more than 10,000 New Jersey custodians and food service workers, said Monday.

Other unions, such as the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, also support the bill, despite their overall objections to the privatization of school services.

“We acknowledge that privatization is a prerogative for management. That doesn’t mean we can’t improve the process to ensure that when it’s done, it’s fair to employees and good for schools,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, the NJEA’s director of government relations.

Allen said Wednesday that she opposed the addition of the county purchasing provision because it confuses the measure’s intent. Because of the change, she opted to remove her name from Senate Bill 1191 and reintroduce it with its original language as a new bill.

Mike Yaple, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said the organization would continue to oppose Allen’s original measure and the new one, claiming they both would impede districts’ flexibility to enter into cost-saving subcontracting agreements.

Yaple said a 2009 survey by the association found New Jersey school districts saved more than $34 million that year through subcontracting services such as food services, busing and custodial work.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-36th of Wood-Ridge, said that the county purchasing provision would not apply to colleges or universities and that school districts would not be compelled to participate.

“If they choose to, they can participate in this countywide purchasing, but first the county has to choose to enter into it before the school districts have that option,” Sarlo said Monday. “There’s flexibility at the county level and the school level.”



NJ Spotlight - By the Numbers: Lots of Money, Fewer Projects at School-Construction Agency…Only one project begun since 2010, despite millions spent by School Development Authority


By John Mooney, March 7, 2013 in Education

The debate didn’t slow down much this week over the state Schools Development Authority and its progress – or, to some, lack of progress – in building and repairing schools in New Jersey’s poorest districts.

Appearing before a joint legislative committee on Tuesday, SDA chief executive Marc Larkins testified for close to two hours.

Yesterday, close to three dozen community activists and others came before Larkins and the SDA’s board to air their complaints.

Much of the talk on both sides is about how many projects have begun, how much they cost, and how long it will be before work is done and children are in new classrooms.

NJ Spotlight breaks down some of the most critical of those numbers, as supplied and undisputed by the SDA and others:

1: Number of new school construction projects on which SDA has broken ground since 2010

12: Number of projects projected by the SDA to be under way within 12 months

30: Number of projects approved by the SDA since 2010

100: Number of projects approved by the state Department of Education in 2010

$8.7 billion: Amount spent by the SDA and its predecessor agency since 2001 under the state Supreme Court’s school-equity case, Abbott v. Burke

$12.5 billion: Total amount authorized

36: Number of “emergent” repair or renovation projects started since 2010

716: Number of “emergent” repair project requests submitted in June 2011

240: Number of SDA employees, down from 340 in 2010$36 million: Annual SDA budget$110 million: Amount spent on administration and other overhead since 2010.

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