Sorry to be so dramatic, but I think that’s a fair statement. Ridgewood’s schools will be changed forever by yesterday’s announcement that our “categorical” state aid is being cut 100%, or $2.9 million, on top of the $3.34 million in cuts already required, to keep the budget “at cap.” Over $6 million in cuts at one time will undo much of what this community has worked very hard over many years to create. Will it also identify opportunities for efficiency or thinking outside the box? Sure. Will we recover and thrive again? Probably. Hopefully. But make no mistake, those efficiencies and outside-the-box ideas will come -- at least for a time -- at an actual price in terms of quality of education. Right now, the Ridgewood Tradition of Excellence is under attack.
As a taxpayer, I can feel some excitement at Sheriff (oops, Governor) Christie’s slash and burn attack on the status quo. Sure, I hate how high my property taxes are. New Jersey is broken and somebody needs to fix it. When left to their own devices over the years, our lawmakers were unable or unwilling to fix it themselves. But I have a question: why do we have to try and fix it all at once? Why do decades of state-level mismanagement have to be corrected on the backs of our children? How on earth do Governor Christie and Education Commissioner Schundler expect our school district to simply “cut” $6 million without severely impacting what happens in our classrooms every day? He wants to battle the NJEA – great idea, but unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, it will be our children who are collateral damage.
There are so many questions about what the Governor can and can’t realistically do. Yesterday’s speech was his proposed budget. It still needs to be approved by the legislature, by sometime in June. I’m fairly certain the lawsuits are already being prepared by urban districts scheduled to lose even more aid. But regardless of the questions and challenges, our local school district, like all the other districts, must adhere to our schedule, which culminates in a budget vote on April 20. The next step on that road is that somehow or other, the superintendent will present the Board and the public with a new budget this Monday night, reflecting the new cuts. Next week, we’ll hold three public meetings to discuss the budget, describe the cuts and answer questions. Please try to attend one of these sessions:
Tuesday March 23 @ 7:30 PM BF Middle School Auditorium
Wednesday March 24 @ 9:00 AM at GW Middle School Auditorium
Thursday March 25 @ 7:30 PM at Ridgewood High School Library
We are required to deliver the balanced budget to the County Superintendent on March 26.
Then, Wednesday March 31 @ 7:30 PM we’ll hold the official Public Hearing and the BOE will have to approve the budget at our regular meeting, at the Ed Center.
In the meantime, the blog New Jersey Left Behind put together an interesting survey of response to Christie’s speech from around the state. Click here to read.
I'm sorry for the delay in writing something about yesterday's news. I was quite honestly dumbfounded. And then I had a deadline for work. And then it was College Night at RHS with my son. It was eerie to walk around the gym, talking to college reps, and wonder what kind of students we'll be delivering to them in a few years.
I'm also sorry for the gloomy tone. I want to optimistic, as I usually am. I know this is a great community with a lot of smart people and good intentions. Of course, we'll survive. But it's going to take a long, hard effort from all of us.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org