NJEA President Barbara Keshishian released the following statement in response to Gov. Christie’s budget address earlier today:
“Gov. Christie’s budget rehashes, reheats and repackages the same failed policies and priorities that have stunted economic growth in the Garden State while others in our region have begun to recover.
“New Jersey’s 9.6% unemployment rate, 47th in the nation, belies the governor’s rosy presentation and shows the need for a new approach in his fourth budget address. Unfortunately, he only offered more of the same.
“More corporate giveaways and tax cuts that primarily benefit the very wealthy are not the way to recover, rebuild or restore New Jersey’s working families. Taxpayer-funded vouchers will not help strengthen our public schools. And apparent references to virtual education in place of trained teachers working directly with students will not transform education for the better.
“We are very disappointed that the governor once again failed to comply with the law and fund New Jersey’s schools at required adequacy levels, compounding the harm of his previous budgets. Flat funding for nearly 200 districts hurts those schools and their students. And minimal increases for others will not be enough to keep up, much less invest in the future.
“Without reasonable increases that are adequate even to cover rising costs for every district, schools will have to make even more cuts to programs and staff, or local taxpayers will once again have to make up the difference. New Jersey ranks 46th nationally in the proportion of school funding that comes from the state government. Flat state funding only increases the pressure on local taxpayers to make up the difference. That is the opposite of property tax relief.
“Instead of investing in education, Gov. Christie says he wants to triple business tax cuts and incentives. That is the wrong way to invest precious taxpayer dollars. We’ve tried corporate giveaways to companies like Revel and Panasonic and the results have been dismal. It’s time to invest in people-centered programs that are proven to work, such as full-day kindergarten and universal access to preschool.
“Investing in infrastructure for higher education is important, and we should do so immediately. It is also past time for the School Development Authority to release funds designated for critically needed new buildings and health and safety upgrades at existing K-12 schools. In 2008, the Legislature authorized $3.9 billion for additional building and renovation of schools across New Jersey. Under Gov. Christie’s watch, the work of the School Development Authority has ground to a halt. It is time to get that body back to work doing what it is supposed to do: providing a safe, healthy public school for every child in New Jersey.
“We are glad the governor is obeying the law he signed obligating the state to make yearly progress toward fully meeting its pension obligations by 2018. We urge him not to wait until the last possible moment to make the contribution, but to put that promised contribution to work immediately.”