Don Albanese, Mays Landing
Teachers need perspective
“The teachers must step back and understand how the taxpayers are seeing them. They stand on street corners, either harassing the governor or holding signs to tell voters they need more money. What do you think the average business person who has their house in foreclosure or worse, and is fighting off creditors just to put a meal on the table, feels about their charade?
“I didn’t realize how much a behavioral student costs a school district. Why send all the problems to the same spot? This would be a great time to utilize classes on computer, solving the district’s problem at a great savings. Who knows? Maybe without being in an environment with labels, those students may flourish.”
Fran Mazza, Mullica Township
Recession had impact
Fran Mazza talked to her coworkers, friends, family and Facebook friends to assess their mood.
“Maybe if we didn’t have a recession, it would be different. People are losing jobs, their unemployment is ending, they’re losing their homes,” she said. Then, she added, the public is asked to vote on whether to increase their property taxes in part so that school personnel can get raises: “How is our children’s education affected by teachers not getting a raise?”
“One guy said to me, ‘So I’m on unemployment, I’m back two mortgage payments, no benefits for myself and my family, and the school board asks me to approve their budget, which will raise my taxes ... and they’ll get raises on top of that. Yep, sure I’ll vote for you.”
Districts need to cut their administrative budgets rather than cutting from the bottom, she said: “It’s all about the janitors, the cooks, the kids’ music programs, and nobody says anything about administrators.”
Meghan Moorhouse, Mays Landing
Arts, sports are losses
Meghan Moorhouse worries about the loss of extracurricular activities and the arts.
“A lot of kids who don’t have the means to do those things elsewhere, that’s were they get those activities — through the public schools. Kids who can’t afford to take an arts class or a music class or an extracurricular activity, that’s where they get them. There are a lot of life’s lessons to be learned by working as a team, a lot of great lessons that come out of those extracurricular activities. It’s a shame to see them get cut, but cuts have to be made somewhere.”
She also worries about the future effect of the cuts: “If you shortchange them in their education, what are you cutting New Jersey out for down the road?”
Barry Felice, Lower Township
Too many districts in N.J.
“The money’s just not there,” said Barry Felice.
He said he recently viewed the movie “The Cartel,” a film by Bob Bowdon about New Jersey’s education system.
Bowdon “is not anti-teacher. He took the whole issue and in about an hour and 45 minutes basically said we have to consolidate the schools, go to 21 counties and 21 districts.
“I recommend seeing it if you haven’t. He doesn’t find fault with teachers. The problem is the teachers union and too many school districts.”
Mahlon Laird, Little Egg Harbor Township
Vote was to send message
“I think the reason school budgets were voted down was because we can,” said Mahlon Laird.
“If we could vote on municipal budgets, they’d be voted down, too. If we could vote on the state budget, it wouldn’t have a chance.
“I don’t think people are necessarily picking on the teachers. It’s an opportunity to say enough is enough, the well is basically dry.”
While voting down a budget doesn’t necessarily get results, “at least you get your views across, and it does make people think,” he said.
Stephen Dicht, Ventnor
Effects will be long-lasting
Stephen Dicht worries about the children who are going through this era.
“We’re talking about kids here. These kids in school now, they’re going to be shaped by this for the rest of their lives, because they’re losing things — losing activities, losing teachers, losing opportunities. They haven’t done anything wrong and they’re the ones most affected by it.”
He is critical of tenure and worries that the teachers being cut now are the young teachers: “They’re the ones who are the freshest, with new ideas. It’s a shame for them.”
Jeanne Petrarca, Egg Harbor Township
Jeanne Petrarca doesn’t think teachers are being “picked on,” as some teachers contend. “It is something that should have been done a long time ago and never was. ... We are in a bad situation, and it calls for drastic measures.”
She doesn’t think teachers should get a free ride on health benefits. But she does believe more cuts need to be made in administration.
“Right away, it’s ‘let’s cut teachers, let’s cut programs,’ and nowhere do they say that we have all these assistants to assistants of the superintendent and the principals and that’s what needs to be cut. And they need to consolidate.”
John Lyles-Belton, Atlantic City
A tragedy for our children
John Lyles-Belton believes the cuts to education are unfair and “catastrophic” — and are particularly hurting children in poverty.
“I look at the longterm tragedy of this, and it really is about the children,” said Belton. “A lot of our anger is directed at the teachers because the teachers have directed their anger at the government. But the teachers represent the intellectual aspect of our community. They are best suited ... to speak up about the cuts.”
Belton said some people believe there should be absolutely no cuts to education. Children have to compete globally in science, technology and math.
“There’s anger and acrimony about these cuts. ... Now we will have classrooms that are overcrowded. The longterm effects of this will be catastrophic. This is our future, this is our investment.
In 2009, he said, 30 percent of the children in Atlantic City public schools and 21 percent of the children in Pleasantville schools lived in poverty. These children will be particularly affected by school cuts, he said.
“It’s going to be a long, hot summer, and we are worried in the city of Atlantic City because it’s an urban city and so many things can go wrong here with our children.”
Cut excessive government salaries and cronyism instead, said Belton: “If the governor’s going to be tough, why be tough on the most vulnerable in society?”
John Walmsley, Egg Harbor Township
In EHT, it’s wait and see
“For me, it is wait and see what the Egg Harbor Township Committee, the special study commission the mayor has appointed, the Board of Education and school district officials do to modify the failed school budget and resolve voters’ dissatisfaction with the proposal voters rejected. Officials we elected have about three weeks to demonstrate they intend to handle our tax money responsibly. Hopefully, those officials realize citizens who pay the township’s and school district’s bills want better fiscal management from their government. Times are tough for everyone.
“I was dismayed personally when the faculty at EHT High School opted for a “wear black” day prior to the school election to show disdain for our governor. It bothered me more when the school’s staff encouraged students to do the same. It bothered me even more when, during a subsequent radio interview, a student said she was ridiculed by fellow students for not participating. I am one citizen who continues to ponder if the episode violated EHT Board of Education policy 3233, which prohibits on-campus political activity during school hours.”