I’ve been listening to and reading comments about the Village’s handling of the school district budget. (The Council will vote tonight.) I understand that those who voted “no” on the budget will be frustrated if the Village Council leaves the budget as-is or if they cut only a "token" amount. I've heard comments like “listen to the voters,” “respect the vote,” or, charmingly, “you lost, get over it.” They can’t seem to understand why the Board of Ed or administration are fighting to prevent more budget cuts. I’d like to explain my thinking (and only mine, FYI – as always I’m not speaking for anyone but myself).
I’m sorry that it’s so hard for some to understand. But here it is: I have been sworn to keep what is best for the schools — and for the children in those schools — as my primary focus. In fact, by legislation, I have sworn an oath that says, “I will make decisions in terms of the educational welfare of children and will seek to develop and maintain public schools that meet the individual needs of all children..."
Nowhere in the Code of Ethics for School Board Members or the Oath of Office does it state that I should place complaints about taxes above the educational welfare of the children of Ridgewood. I am obligated to do everything I can – as a member of the Board – to ensure that our schools deliver the best education possible. As I’ve said before, I truly do understand the frustration of taxpayers. Of course I do...I’m a taxpayer! I’m someone who was out of work. My husband was out of work. We are not cavalier about our family budget. But putting aside my personal financial situation, I believe the $6.3 million we’ve cut from the 2010-11 budget is enough. I believe that further cuts at this time will destabilize the District even more and will negatively impact our schools. And therefore I am content to follow what the law dictates is supposed to be happening right now. That is, the Village Council is supposed to decide what is best for the schools. And I'm supposed to advocate for what I think is best for the schools. Of course, the Village Council members have not sworn an oath to the schools, so their position is a little more complicated. Their references to the “sanctity” of the vote, while contradictory to what they are in fact charged with doing, are understandable.
Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t operate with a knee jerk reaction that says all budget cuts are bad. I am not out to "inflate" the school budget. I only want to maintain or improve the quality of our schools, in spite of necessary budget cuts. Every single cut we made for 2010-11 was discussed, analyzed and debated. I personally supported many of the cuts. Once the Board came to consensus, I support all of them.
I know our staff will rise to the occasion and do their best to adjust to the changes we’ve made, and then we’ll probably have to make more changes next spring. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that our budget will face more pressures next year. No matter what, though, all I can do is continue to work with the rest of the Board to do what is best for Ridgewood’s children, and balance that with what is best for individual tax bills.
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