LAKEWOOD-The Lakewood Vaad, the township’s political power machine, this week called upon the state of New Jersey to intervene before to save the jobs of 106 school teachers.
“You likely have heard that the Lakewood Public School District is facing yet another major budget deficit. To close the deficit the State of NJ proposed a plan to cut 106 teachers, a staggering 22% of the total teachers in the District. Firing 1 of every 5 teachers would decimate the local public schools, and badly hurt public school kids, their families and our entire town,” the Vaad wrote in a joint statement with Agudath Israel.
“Every child is precious to us – whether they attend a public or private school. No citizen can stand silent while children are hurt; as religious Jews we bear extra sensitivity and concern for the plight of children and we are speaking up,” they added. “We call on our neighbors and fellow citizens of all faiths and backgrounds to speak up, in unison, with us – join hands and add your voice to this petition – simply add your name on the right side of this page.”
An online petition to be sent to the state and Governor Chris Christie has been set up here.
The proposed cuts would destroy children and families. Classrooms with 50 kids and 1 teacher are unmanageable, illogical and unfair to any child. This would rob the children of Lakewood, many of whom are vulnerable and have meager resources, of their futures. Lakewood’s in-classroom spending is already in the bottom 2% in the State and cannot go any lower.
The State’s proposed budget cuts further eliminates all extra-curricular activities, including sports, outings and after-hour clubs for Lakewood’s public school kids. This would deny our public school students any healthy social outlets. Many of their parents work long and hard hours, and many lack transportation too. The kids and their parents would suffer badly as a result; such cuts are plain wrong.
Lakewood’s Taxpayers are already doing all they can to help the kids – we pay $3.4 million dollars each year above our Local Fair Share. This is not enough because the State Funding formula has been shortchanging Lakewood for many years. The State itself acknowledges that its Official State Aid Deficit to Lakewood is $19.3 million dollar each year – causing massive disruption in the Public Schools. And that’s without counting Jewish kids in the formula – the State completely ignores their existence. Counting Jewish kids too would compel the State to add tens of millions of dollars in additional annual aid – over and above the $19.3 million dollars that our District is denying us each year.
We call on the State with a heartfelt plea: don’t hurt the kids. Don’t fire teachers. Keep classroom size at a reasonable number. Protect extra-curricular activities. We ask nothing special – just fund Lakewood as we deserve – fairly and aboveboard, without special legislative handouts, loans or ‘favors.’
As a community we have made many sacrifices for our public school kids – and we will continue to do so. We made major sacrifices in our safety busing (commonly called courtesy busing), and no longer receive this vital service from the District nor the Township. We support Lakewood Township, which took over safety busing for public school kids, paid for at our local expense and out of our tax dollars. Our private schools don’t receive any other services from the District, unless required by State or Federal Law (commonly called mandated services). We pay the overwhelming majority of the taxes that fund the Township and District, and have long accepted a high local tax burden – sacrifices for the children. We recently approved – by a landslide, a $34 million dollar bond to fund repairs to the public schools, many of which are nearly 50 years old – another major sacrifice for our public school kids.
We now ask State officials publicly that which we have been working tirelessly on quietly for many years – join us – at this most difficult moment – and fix the State’s funding formula that denies our local children the $40 million in annual funding that we deserve.
The State can do this easily – simply fund the Official State Aid Deficit, and simply stop discriminating against us and start counting Orthodox Jewish children when calculating the State Funding formula. Doing so would properly fund the public schools and would ensure that every child in Lakewood has a bright future.