I was at the Budget Priority Setting meeting this Wednesday and the recommended priorities were in fact, all credible suggestions. They included interventions for failing students, science labs, adequate technology, college prep services and many others. It’s unfortunate that the Board has to choose among things that our children so desperately need. None of these are optional. The School Board does need to set specific priorities, but only after ensuring that these and other non-negotiable items are already provided for.
The Board members also had a conversation about living within our means but there was some confusion about what those means are. NJ Legislature passed the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) in 2008 and the Court ratified it in 2011. Paterson parents and community members were there the entire time in Trenton and in Hackensack to monitor the process and advocate for Paterson students. We filled the Statehouse and the Courtrooms and took every possible opportunity to make sure our Legislators and the Courts kept the children in mind as they deliberated. State troopers showed up with canine units to move us across the street from the State Courthouse in Hackensack (and perhaps to scare us). It was that serious! It still is.
I urge the Paterson Board of Education to develop and present a budget based on what our children are entitled to under the SFRA. It is the law and the NJ Supreme Court found it to be Constitutional. Anything less violates the law and leaves money on the table. Money that this district can use to provide the resources that our children so desperately need. PEF will continue the advocate for full funding of the SFRA. Join us.