I’ve been in radio a little over two years now, working with the promotions team for several stations. I like to get to the office about an hour before I'm scheduled and start getting ready for an event. I double-check to make sure we’re all packed with prizes, make sure our vans are loaded with the equipment we need, and I like to be on the road by the scheduled office time. I have done this routine for the past ten years, and this routine which I have applied to my career actually came from my time in marching band. In June, I will be out of high school seven years, and yet this routine has never left me. It is one of the many things I gained as part of my time as Toms River South’s Marching Indian band.

My time in one of the best marching bands in New Jersey (I’m a little biased) is one I've always carried with me, and it’s shaped my adult and professional life in ways I never expected. On a band trip my senior year to Virginia, I met my best friend who has been with me through thick and thin. I’ve traveled a good portion of the United States with him, and I met my other best friends through our various adventures in our post-high school lives. During my time in marching band, I also took a great leap and auditioned for the now-defunct Cadets2 Drum and Bugle Corps out of Allentown, PA. During my time in that organization, we traveled along the east coast and performed in front of thousands of people in places like Metlife Stadium, Annapolis, and Allentown’s J.Birney Crum stadium.

All of this is due to my time in the Toms River School District and its fine arts program. There are many students out there right now who are having their own experiences, meeting their best friends, graduating with fond memories of their time in band and sports. Taking lessons learned from great teachers and applying them to real life. Why would you want to take this away?

NJ Senate Bill S2, signed by Governor Phil Murphy in July 2018, will do just that, and the results could be catastrophic for the Toms River School District and the towns it encompasses. Bill S2 takes funding from “overfunded” school districts and gives them to districts the state believes are “underfunded”, essentially the authors of the bill believe it will fund everyone fairly, which is hardly the case.

According to a pamphlet from the Toms River School District which lists the ways Bill S2 will affect them, issues with the bill’s formula include:

  1. 1. Not factoring in billions of dollars in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs)
  2. The property wealth figures it relies on include 25+ towns that have not had legally required property revaluations in more than 25 years
  3. The calculations are impossible to verify without the state disclosing how it allocates $6.5 Billion in equalization aid, which the NJDOE has refused to do”

So what happens if the funding stays as is under bill S2? While nothing is official yet, marching band, sports, plays, musicals, and all non-state mandated extracurricular activities will disappear. No more Friday night football games, no more marching band field shows. The cuts will not stop at extracurricular activities however, with over 300 teacher layoffs and class sizes expected to double to between 30 and 40 kids per classroom.

I learned a lot from my time in The Toms River School district. I had great and wonderful teachers, and experiences that have shaped my life to who I am today. The friends I made during my time in marching band and the experience of it all was something I will never forget. I owe everything to those four years I spent in band. Marching band is not just about marching on a field and playing music. It’s the countless hours you put into it. Students take time out of their young social lives and perform at games, parades, concerts. Their band camps are between one and two weeks depending on the school, and they continue to practice weekly until Thanksgiving, and that includes the daily band class as well. They learn the skills they need for careers, such as showing up a little extra early to get ready for the day, respect and group organization, management skills, and much more.

So if that all goes away it would leave a gaping hole in the education system in Toms River. It also opens the door to more issues inside and outside of the classroom. Kids will get bored, it’s a natural thing and it happened to all of us as kids. The problem now is that if there are no activities around school, students won't have to maintain good grades to stay on a sports team, they could get into some mischievous activities, and the morale of the school would go down. These cuts will cripple the district in ways we never imagined. ‘

We can reverse this, and I am asking Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney to fix this. This feel-good legislation will punish a school district that has been working and turning students into successful adults. The results of these cuts will not only reflect badly on the state, but will also lead to an increase in crime, low student morale, and could even lead to a dropping graduate rate. The huge class sizes will not benefit anyone and will hamper teachers and students. These cuts are not in stone yet, and we can still save the district, but we have to let the powers that be know that we are not backing down.

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