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!