Toms River school supporters to protest state funding revisions in Trenton
Proposed state school funding alterations, that threaten to drain about $3,300,000 from the Toms River Regional School District every year if approved, spark a Thursday protest at the State House in Trenton.
Organizers, elaborating their agenda today at Toms River High School South, are chartering buses - they hope to hire 100 of them - to carry what they hope will be hundreds upon hundreds of taxpayers, teachers, administrators, staffers, advocates, parents and even students.
Among the most ardent supporters of the demonstration is Schools Superintendent David Healy, who has piloted the system out of the turmoil of malfeasance that sprang from his predecessor's term, and has pulled it through the fiscal aftermath of Superstorm Sandy - a period that has already seen almost 40 teachers taken off the rolls.
Healy said that the proposal is in motion well after 2017-2018 school budgets, statewide, have been approved, and he finds it difficult to rationalize.
"We've already established all of next year, in terms of programs, and services, and staffing, and enrollments," Healy said. "People have been informed that they're being re-hired. So now, at the 11th hour, we're being told, 'Oh, you're losing $3.3 million. Go back to your budget and find it.' How do you do that, without decimating the district?"
Healy contends that the formula, set forth by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vin Prieto, cannot simply be one-size-fits-all. He aserts that districts must be considered on their individual characteristics.
"I'd like to think that people do things for the right reason," Healy continued. "If taking $3.3 million from Toms River is believed to be the right reason, then I think they need to look a little closer at Toms River, and what it's going to mean."
He goes on to point out that the Toms River district took a $10,000,000 reduction in the 2010-2011 school year; that the system is still more than $3,600,000 under the spending levels it had prior to that point; that the state-imposed two-percent cap affects taxing and spending; that the township is far from a full rebound from the Superstorm devastation that obliterated about 10,000 houses, and gouged billions from the township tax base; and that school officials have cut every conceivable corner to maintain educational standards.
"In every aspect of this school district's operation, we are among the lowest [in cost comparisons] - administrative costs, teacher's salaries, administrative salaries, administrator-to-teacher ratio, administrator-to-student ratio, student-to-teacher ratio."
Healy said that he's explained his position to state education officials, and to state lawmakers in Districts 9 and 10, and he's gotten intervention by Mayor Tom Kelaher and other local officials. The only way that the Toms River situation will reach the ears of the all state lawmakers, he warns, is to raise a racket on their doorstep.
Organizers set out their agenda at High School South at 1 PM.