NJEA Executive Director Ed Richardson joined New Jersey Working Families and a diverse coalition of New Jersey residents opposed to cuts in school district aid and cuts to programs to assist the state’s most vulnerable individuals.
Richardson emphasized the need to provide funding for all of New Jersey’s students. He said that Senate President Steven Sweeney’s plan was not the solution to bring relief to school districts that have been severely underfunded under his and Gov. Chris Christie’s watch. Many such districts have seen sharp rises in their student populations while receiving no concurrent increase in state aid for the last eight years, leaving their budgets severely out of balance with their current needs.
The Senate President’s plan would cut $46 million from state aid already promised to 126 school districts and transfer that money those out-of-balance districts.
“We are not saying that the districts that have gotten out of balance over eight years of level funding don’t deserve more funding—they desperately need it!” Richardson said. “But why on earth are we taking away money away from other school districts—away from other children—in order to make up for eight years of failure on school funding?”
Richardson called the cuts unconscionable.
Richardson pointed out that Christie had proposed his state budget on Feb. 28. In the first days of March, the New Jersey Department of Education notified all school districts how much state aid they could expect. School districts used those figures to develop their budgets, which were in turn approved by the state. Using those approved budgets, local municipalities set tax rates.
“And now here, at the end of that process, the state is now going to go those 126 of those school districts and say ‘oh, sorry, we’re taking $8.5, $3.5, $1.5 million away from you!’” Richardson exclaimed. “Those districts have nowhere else to get that money but to take it away from their kids and that’s wrong!”
While Richardson addressed the media, scores of NJEA and NJREA members flooded the Statehouse to speak directly to legislators, telling them to fund all schools and that cuts hurt kids.