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NEWARK-The state’s educational infrastructure and construction business both got a major boost Wednesday when Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation authorizing $3.9 billion in state financing for the construction, repair and rebuilding of elementary and primary schools. The signing relaunches an effort begun six years ago with formation of the School Construction Corp.

But that effort largely ground to a halt in early 2006 when Corzine, at the beginning of his current term, effectively dissolved the SCC amid growing charges of mismanagement and cost overruns. The effort began to get back on track a year ago when the Schools Development Authority was formed via the legislative route as a successor, and that agency will oversee the ongoing program.

“Today, we fulfill an important obligation to our children by making a down payment on the future of their education,” reads a statement by Corzine, who yesterday signed the legislation at a nearly 140-year-old elementary school here, among those targeted for improvements. “Every student deserves to attend school in a safe and healthy building. This legislation recognizes that….”

“These funds will meet a critical need for New Jersey students who have been forced to learn in ancient and often crumbling school buildings,” says Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), a co-sponsor of the legislation (S1457/A2873).

The legislation designates $2.9 billion for schools in what are termed “the state’s poorest communities,” or “Abbott Districts” as designated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke in the late ’90s. Another $1 billion will go for projects in suburban districts around the state, and of the total, $50 million will go for projects specifically involving county vocational schools.

To date, the SDA and its predecessor SCC have overseen more than 500 projects, ranging from 39 new schools, to a number of major additions and an extensive series of smaller renovations. The projects targeted for the new funding are 53 new schools around the state. Of those, 27 are earlier projects that had been put on hold in early 2007 in the wake of the shut-down of the SCC, and 26 are entirely new projects.

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