Letter to the Editor: Fair Funding for Schools

Scotch Plains resident, Maria Sumanski urges residents to support The Fair School Funding Plan.

To the Editor:

It is well known that New Jersey's highest-in-the-nation property taxes cause severe hardships for many families. What is less well known is the root cause of those high property taxes. Simply put, in the matter of school funding, the state supreme court has usurped the authority which our constitution gives solely to the legislature. But now there is hope!

Senator Mike Doherty has introduced The Fair School Funding Plan, which would provide tax relief for many New Jersey citizens. You can learn more about this at http://fairschoolfunding.com/.  For Berkeley Heights this would mean $18,194,217 more state school aid and that would help lower property taxes.  It’s a win-win proposition!

The Supreme Court has yet to realize that you cannot bring about equality by treating others unfairly. You cannot bring about fairness to children in poor districts by punishing innocent children who do not live in Abbott school districts. A comparison of two districts illustrates the unfairness. Currently, taxpayers in Scotch Plains and Fanwood send $51.9 million in income taxes to Trenton, while those in Asbury Park send $3.9 million. That's five times more per person: $1,686 vs. $326. Yet, the Asbury Park school district receives $24,885 per student in aid compared to just $400 in Scotch Plains-Fanwood. Scotch Plains-Fanwood parents pay five times more taxes yet their children get shortchanged by a factor of 62 to 1! 

When some districts receive 62 times more per student than those providing most of the money, things have become grossly unfair. Under Senator Doherty’s plan, all students will be treated equally; all districts will receive $7,841 per student. Communities like Scotch Plains-Fanwood would still pay in more than they get back, but at least their children will be treated equally. Recently, the township of Scotch Plains passed a resolution supporting the Fair School Funding Plan. Ask your town council to do the same.

Under Fair School Funding, the Berkeley Heights school district would receive around $18 million more in state aid, spelling tax relief for its residents! The widow trying to make ends meet; parents striving to pay their child’s college tuition and retirees struggling on a fixed income; all deserve a fair shake for a change. It’s time to do something about this!

Of course, we want all children in the state to receive good educations; but if bankrupting some towns to throw more money into failing districts were the answer, we would have seen the results by now. Instead these schools continue to perform poorly with dismal graduation rates. It’s time for something different! Continuing the present system only delays the search for real solutions to help disadvantage children. 

Senator Doherty’s legislation is a constitutional amendment and must pass in both houses in Trenton with a super majority (by a vote of 3/5 of each House.)  The amendment is then placed on the ballot in November for a public vote. You can help make this happen!  Let your town council know that you want them to pass a resolution supporting the Fair School Funding Plan. Write to your state senator asking that he/she support Senator Doherty’s Fair School Funding Plan and write to your two assembly representatives asking that they sponsor a similar bill in the assembly. 

Let’s work together to bring back fairness to the students in New Jersey and tax relief for our residents.  The time for change is now!


Maria Sumanski

Scotch Plains

Me the people February 16, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Josh, you must have hit some nerve. Tom too is another T.P. guy. Funny they only drink green tea. They will have nothing to do with that lazy black tea. Talk about ideologues. "Don't tread on me", "keep your hands out of my pocket", "gov't has to stop telling us what to do". Unless of course it has to do with a women's body or praying away the gay. The T.P. may do better to not hold their meetings in the biggest house in town.
JB February 16, 2012 at 04:27 PM
"Tom", who is casting judgement? Who is insulted? I was pointing out the fact that, by and large, our challenges pale in comparison to people who are living on an average of 13K per year. I'm sure you can come up with anecdotes of people struggling, but that's not the same as chronic poverty and it's not even the point. The real question is whether kids from truly financially challenged districts deserve the same chance at a good education as our children and whether slashing their school budgets by two-thirds would be denying them that chance. Study after study has shown that it is not the 'system' that is failing kids. Those schools are full of hardworking educators and administrators. Of course we want better outcomes for our money, but when 80% of the learning outcome is outside a school's control, you don't pull the plug on a school because of low test scores. By all means, monitor how the state's money is being used. Put the screws on the teachers union. But we know it's much more expensive to operate a safe school in a poor community. We also know that there is a strong correlation between household income and classroom performance. Oh yeah. Westfield and SP can educate kids a much lower cost, so anybody can. And of course, since we help by giving to charities, that's where individual responsibility ends. Forget scale. Tom, rather than cherry picking specific soundbytes, deal with the entire argument. --Berkman
JB February 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
MTP: It seems their favorite rhetorical device is incredulity that they could possibly be accused of lacking compassion when they put money in the collection plate at church. But my favorite is that they care so darned much about the success of poor kids that if only people in western Union County could pay lower property taxes, test scores in Hillside would go up. And anybody who advocates for all public schools to be properly funded is socialist who is content with failure. Bizarre.
Uncle Miltie February 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Josh Berkman, In your Feb. 9 post, you showed yourself ignorant of the relevant data and capable of arguing only with pre-conceived opinion and ad hominem attacks. A little research shows your assertions about Asbury Park to be fantasy. The relevant poverty-level is not 50% but much lower. Property taxes raised $23.5 million, not zero. School funding with FSF would not be $7,000 per student, but much higher. The number of students per classroom is now 8; to claim it would go up to 60 is absurd. You, hilariously, call someone else's post "intellectually lazy" and "idealogical" (sic). You remind me of an old Indian proverb: It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in an argument. Me the People, I recommend a good spell-check program and a course in remedial English.
JB February 16, 2012 at 09:06 PM
This is getting tiring. UM: What is "relevant" poverty level? Is it another Tea Party way of manipulating data? According to the 2010 U.S. census, 30% of the total population of AP (including 44.9% of all people under 18) are below the poverty level. Also, in 2011, Westfield collected $143M in municipal taxes and SP collected $91M. So it may be an exaggeration to say AP doesn't collect municipal taxes, but hardly. Now I quote Maria's letter, "Under Senator Doherty’s plan, all students will be treated equally; all districts will receive $7,841 per student." So please explain to me how a district, with a tax base equaling 30% of SP and 21% of Westfield and much higher expenses, will come up with the difference. I'm only asking because the math doesn't seem to work. Strawman arguments about ROI and whether these schools are under performing are for a different discussion that frankly neither you nor I (unless you are an expert in primary and secondary education) are really qualified to have. You are advocating pulling the plug on Abbott school funding to lower property taxes in wealthy communities. It is that simple. I would respect you Tea Partiers a lot more if you came clean about your agenda instead of hiding behind disingenuous cliches about "the kids deserving better" and making the laughable assertion that its okay to defund public schools in poor districts because 'hey, they suck,' and you give money to your church. Sleep well.


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