NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty issued this statement following Gov. Murphy’s budget address today:
“We understand the tremendously difficult situation that the state faces with this budget, and we appreciate Gov. Murphy’s unwavering effort to put forward a smart, responsible budget that helps New Jersey build toward a stronger, fairer future for all New Jersey residents. In particular, the fiscally responsible decision to continue funding the state’s pension obligations will yield both immediate and long-term benefits to the state and avoid jumping back into the hole that New Jersey has worked so hard to climb out of.
“K-12 school funding has not been cut further than it already was last spring. We remain deeply concerned, though, about the ability of New Jersey’s public schools to meet the extraordinary demands being placed upon them this year without the additional resources they will need. The additional funding for schools to help bridge the digital divide is welcome and much needed. We need to continue to work with the state to identify funding to fully close that gap in preparation for a year when digital access will be more important than ever.
“We urge the state to listen to the concerns of local districts about their ability to keep students and staff safe during this pandemic and allow them to exercise their best judgment regarding how to reopen. The Governor’s commitment to provide funding to ensure access to childcare is an important way to support families while keeping children safe. We must also make sure that students continue to have access to the learning opportunities they need to thrive, including arts education and extracurricular enrichment activities.
“We also urge the state to work with districts to find the necessary funding, from whatever sources, needed to make our schools safe for the eventual return to in-person instruction. This is an extraordinary need that will require extraordinary investment to keep our students and school employees safe. We urge the governor and Legislature to work together to provide desperately-needed funding to the SDA to ensure that those school safety and infrastructure investments can be made.
“We are also deeply concerned about the effect of a deep cut to operating aid for New Jersey’s county colleges. At a time of record unemployment, New Jersey residents need access to affordable higher education to retrain and to prepare for the jobs they will compete for in the future. We deeply appreciate that direct tuition aid to students has been maintained. However, we should be investing more, not less, in our outstanding county colleges to enable them to fulfill their critical mission and help strengthen our economy.
“NJEA members are fully committed to working with our students to overcome the many challenges that await us this year and to keep New Jersey’s public schools the best in the nation. We also pledge to work with our elected leaders to find solutions and to invest what is needed to prepare all New jersey students to emerge from this crisis stronger and better prepared to succeed in the future.”