Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is this one of your “hard choices,” Governor Christie?

Today, on his first full day in office, Governor Christie “discovered” an additional $1 billion in debt in New Jersey, so he signed a bunch of Executive Orders to try and deal. According to the Star-Ledger, “Christie would not say how he would close the gap, other than to rule out raising taxes. He said he would try to implement a Corzine cost-cutting proposal to require school districts with excess surplus to use the money in place of state aid beginning next month.”

This is wrong, wrong, wrong. And also simply not fair. As I explained in a previous post, current state law says that any surplus the school district has at the end of a previous year must be returned to our budget in the subsequent year. OK, that’s fine. We do that and we budget for that. So in next year’s 2010-2011 budget, we would normally include about $1.3 million in surplus from last year (08-09). With this wrong-headed (and did I mention not fair?) plan, the state would hold back $1.3 million in aid that they currently owe us for this year, forcing us to use that $1.3 million surplus to pay our bills this year. Then, next year, since we won’t have that surplus anymore, we’d have to cut an additional $1.3 million from our budget.

You know, I read somewhere that Governor Christie said solving New Jersey’s fiscal crisis would require some “hard choices.” Oh really? This seems like an easy choice. This seems like business as usual in Trenton – just pass the problem along till next year. Make a quick and short-sighted decision right now, and let the taxpayers in Ridgewood deal with the fallout later. While we’re at it, let’s penalize a community that’s doing the right thing (keeping our spending in line and ending the year with a surplus), and let’s give a pass to less fiscally responsible communities (those who spent all their money and thus don’t have as much or any surplus).

This is ridiculously unfair. Mr. Christie, the students of Ridgewood did not cause the state’s financial problems (how could they, when NJ already sends Ridgewood so little in funds, and not even what they’ve promised). How dare you use our students like this. This is not a fair solution. This isn’t a "hard choice." This is an easy, uninformed, careless choice that sets a terrible example (hey kids, no need to fulfill your obligations…no need to treat everyone fairly), with the potential to affect our students’ educations every day.

P.S. 1/21/10 11:18 PM: OK, fine, I removed the label "stupidity" from the bottom...I do think it's stupid but I really don't want to set a precedent with my labels. At least not today.


Anonymous said...

It is a little less than fair to berate a guy that stepped, albeit voluntarily, into a $10 billion hole for this year alone. We are the ones to blame, the voters, who have for decades elected weak government that was unwilling to stand up to anyone. Bergen County and even more so in Ridgewood, which has been on the short end of the educational funding stick for years, has been unwilling or unable to exert any influence in Trenton. This isn't going to change until the state constitution is rewritten to provide for a more equitable funding arrangement. I think you would hard pressed to find anyone that thinks that all of the extra money per student that we as NJ taxpayers are spending in the Abbott districts, over what we pay in Ridgewood, has helped those districts or the students in them.

Here is an idea. Have the state determine, all their mandates included, what the cost is to educate a student, and then have the state pay for it. If that means districts would have to be closed/merged, so be it. If individual district wants to spend more, then they can hit up the property owners in the district, if they are willing to pay for it. I'm pretty sure we would come out ahead in this funding plan.

Laurie Goodman said...

Well, I berated Corzine for this idea when he first floated it a couple weeks ago. No matter whose idea it is, it's bad.

I have to take a little issue with your "unable or unwilling" to exert influence in Trenton. Ridgewood has been active with Dollars & Sense and the Garden State Coalition of Schools, both of which invest considerable effort in Trenton. In addition, our administrators and Board members are in Trenton on a fairly regular basis, meeting with legislators, the education commissioner and most recently with Gov. Christie's transition team. Whether these efforts have been fruitful is another story. But the will is certainly there.

Not sure about your funding idea. We probably would come out ahead.

Thanks for writing.

John Adams said...

Laurie, our BOE members wouldn't know our assemblymen or state senator if they bumped into them. I have more influence with them than any member on the board. Why is that I wonder? Could it be that our BOE is made up of Democrats and our state representatives are all Republicans?

They hold you in utter contempt for the arrogance shown towards their/your constituents and your slavish fealty to the teacher's union.

Laurie said...

First, thank you for your comments.

I wouldn't have any idea what political parties the other Board members belong to, if any. Honestly, it has never come up. The Board is non-partisan.

And I assume my state representatives hold me in the same level of contempt as they hold the other taxpayers in Ridgewood.

I'm just plain confused by your comments re: my "arrogance" and "slavish fealty to the teachers' union"...I guess you don't know me. My constituents are the students of the Ridgewood Public Schools and I am honored to work hard for their education. Teachers' union? I was not on the BOE for most of the negotiations for the current contract.

If you have so much "influence" with legislators, perhaps you can use that political capital for good, learn about the school budget and then help them understand?

Otherwise, I am happy to discuss things with you here. Thanks.

John Adams said...

It is easy to find out the non-partisan political affiliation of your fellow BOE members. They are registered voters with the County. Secondly, the Democrat Party, of which you are a member, is owned lock, stock and barrel by the NJEA. That my dear madame is an undeniable fact. As for arrogance, the BOE is notorious for insisting it is right and defending the wrong in the face of all facts. It's proven disdain for our state legislators is well known in Trenton and here. Don't be so sure about our state reps holding the taxpayers in their districts in contempt. That is solely reserved for BOE members. As for school budgets, it was your party, the Democrat Party, which controls the money going to schools. It was also your party's liberal judges who devised the funding scheme known as Abbott Districts. A huge waste of taxpayer dollars and children's futures. Oh, the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it just like a Democrat to pretend to be for the people when in reality you are beholding to their socialist friends, the labor unions.

Laurie Goodman said...

Yes, I know I could sleuth out voter registration and all kinds of other info on anybody (well, except those who post anonymously or pseudonymously). What is the point? I prefer to judge people on their actual, individual actions, rather than paint with a broad brush and assign guilt by association.

I guess you and I will just have to agree to disagree. Thanks for stopping by, have a good day.