AIA New Jersey Legislative Update: Assembly A4496 SDA Schools Bill

December 22, 2022

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AIA New Jersey Legislative Update: Assembly A4496 SDA Schools Bill

AIA New Jersey’s Legislative & Government Affairs (L&GA) committee, under the leadership of Executive Director Joe Simonetta, CAE, Honorary AIA, has been actively working in recent months to lobby against adverse school design language in the pending NJ Assembly SDA Schools bill A4496. This bill has significant impacts on all stakeholders involved in K-12 school facilities in New Jersey.

AIA-NJ’s position has been to OPPOSE the A4496 bill as originally drafted and amended. Most objectionable to architects was the language that proposed having the NJ School Development Authority (SDA) develop a limited number of standardized “Model Schools” that all SDA districts in NJ receiving state funding would need to use, and that hundreds of Non-SDA (regular operating districts) would be compelled to follow or risk reduced eligible state funding. The model schools program idea is not a new topic, and AIA-NJ has lobbied against similar past proposals in recent decades.

The week of November 28th AIA-NJ past president and K-12 school design expert, Steve Carlidge, AIA, met with Assembly Speaker Coughlin, the bill’s lead sponsor. Carlidge explained the many reasons why fixed school building prototypes don’t work. Not only do such model schools fail to achieve significant cost savings as intended, but they result in unresponsive and uninspiring schools that don’t satisfy the needs of students, educators, or communities.

On December 8th, AIA-NJ president-elect Ron Weston, AIA, testified before the NJ Assembly Education Committee at a hearing on the A4496 bill. On the eve of the committee hearing an amended version of the bill was issued that removed the restrictive school design language and removed the requirement for model school prototype buildings entirely. Weston lauded the amended A4496 language pertaining to design that proposes SDA develop a “model school design program” comprised of updated standards and a “kit of parts” school design elements (e.g. room types). The proposed standards would align with the existing Department of Education facility education standards (FES). The Assembly Education Committee voted unanimously to adopt the amended bill language…a legislative win for AIA-NJ!

This SDA Schools bill is still in committee and pending, so AIA-NJ will continue to monitor the bill and offer our voice on the final version to promote the value of good school design. AIA-NJ is also forming a Schools Design Task Force in 2023 to advocate the value of architects at the forefront of school design, sharing the best practices for design advancing the health, safety, and welfare of school stakeholders.

For more information contact: Joseph Simonetta, CAE. Hon AIA: E:

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