Sometimes—even in the high-octane, partisan atmosphere of a presidential election year—certain issues transcend politics as usual.
We saw an example of that on May 2 when Governor Chris Christie called on the state Legislature to appropriate $10 million for lead testing in every school building in New Jersey. The horror of Flint, Michigan, and the discovery of high lead levels in some Newark schools served as a wake-up call to the dangers of an aging infrastructure. And subsequent voluntary tests in suburban schools showed that no district’s schoolchildren are immune to this health danger. And a danger it is—with long-term developmental problems as the result of high-level, routine exposure.
On behalf of the New Jersey School Boards Association, I thank Governor Christie for advocating state financial support for a comprehensive initiative that, otherwise, would pose financial difficulty for many communities. As always, NJSBA will examine the proposal with the goal of ensuring that the recommend financial support for lead testing is adequate.
Yes, there would be requirements placed on school districts: Schools would have to post all test results and immediately notify parents if testing showed elevated lead levels. Nonetheless, there should be no higher priority than ensuring the health and safety of the children and staff in our schools.
The governor also directed the state health department to move forward with new regulations to strengthen New Jersey’s standard for intervening in cases of potential lead exposure.
Governor Christie’s call-to-action follows previous proposals for state and federal legislation to address lead contamination in school district water supplies. His announcement on Monday, calling for comprehensive testing, shows that this is neither a Democratic nor a Republican issue, but rather a necessary step to ensure the health and wellness of New Jersey’s school children.
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