As a concerned parent in Berkeley Heights, I have many friends and family members who are educators and support our schools. But, I also feel it's equally important to hold our schools accountable for their actions. Similarly, I support the governor and find it refreshing especially on this Tax Day, that we finally have someone in the governor's chair that is looking out for taxpayers.
It should be clear to everyone by now that without getting our spending under control and righting the state's finances, that NJ will cease to be a viable area for middle class families and retirees to live. It barely is now and gets worse by the day.
And while many are troubled by our governor's recent budget cuts, especially education, the goal here is not to worsen educational excellence or shift the tax burden on residents but to make these government entities get their cost structures in line, just like those of us who have done so in our households or private sector jobs.
With that said, as someone who is certainly not a political activist but rather votes her conscience, principles and christian values, I have to question the wisdom and the actions of the schools as of late.
Although I am troubled by the recent reporting on Attack Lists, Death Prayers and profane postings on websites, I am more concerned with the school's apparent arrogance, poor judgment, selfishness and lack of compassion for their residents and our children. I for one truly believe that we have been and are still in dire straits and as a community, state and country should all step up accordingly and share in sacrifice. The reason being, while I am thankful to still have a job in the private sector, I have endured wage freezes, significant increases in health insurance contributions (almost 15% of my salary now), longer hours (60 is a good week), streamlining of operations and worst of all, have had to reduce headcount by more than 15% over each of the last 4 years. I have also supported family and friends who have suffered far greater in this dire economic climate, where 1 out of 10 workers continues to seek employment.
Then I contrast this to the actions of my home school district of Berkeley Heights and it becomes clear that we are not only on different pages but reading from different books. Aside from their standoff with the governor and their call on the rich (which I am not one of by the way), we all know about some of their actions so far such as:
1) Not containing or reducing enough school costs after years of warnings!
2) Approving wage increases of more than 12% over the next 3 years while others have either lost jobs or had wages reduced/frozen!
3) 40.7 additional teaching, supervisory and other positions being added in the last 6 years while there were only an estimated 16 additional students!
4) Touting this year's budget was decreased by $198,639 from last year's but in the same breath "Tell Taxpayers To Absorb >95% Of This Years Tax Increase"!
5) Etc. etc.
But if that wasn't enough, recently we discover that our children were presented with a "Did You Hear" flyer, which touted the school's positive highlights (even our elementary schools). And, while we don't know what narrative accompanied this, wouldn't it be more appropriate to educate the kids than to exploit them in these uncertain times unless of course you wanted to explain to little Johnny or Sally why you were granted high raises when their parents may have lost their jobs.
Better yet the answer clearly is, "leave this matter to parents to sort out and vote on"? Equally unsettling is seeing neighboring New Providence teachers voluntarily reduce their raises, thereby showing some compassion and sacrifice for their residents and fellow employees, all while our BH schools stand firm on the sidelines and snub their noses at the community they serve.
As an accountant and wife of a family who has had to sacrifice I pray for the schools to see the light. I pray for them to step up and do the right thing, like sacrificing their wage increases and finding other areas to cut and streamline operations just like I and countless others have had to do in either their jobs or homes.
I believe Ms. Ruedisueli has it right when she says people within the community can reduce this 95% taxpayer burden significantly and still maintain educational excellence.