Ever since the November elections, the New Jersey middle class has been under attack from their newly-elected governor, Chris Christie. Governor Christie's latest attack came in the form of an $800 million cut to the state's education budget, as well as, a veto of the Millionaire's Tax, a tax on the rich that would raise around $1 billion in revenue for the state.
Christie spoke out against the NJEA, the state's largest teachers' union. He blamed the teachers for the failure of New Jersey public schools. His agenda now includes promoting charter schools and moving past our "failing public schools."
The effects of these budget cuts will mean more layoffs for teachers across the state; however, it has also become another example of the GOP's blatant disregard for the working class. Schools in the state are now charging fees for students to attend school and participate in school-related activities.
Most recently, this has affected the working class of South Jersey. According to a report by the Courier-Post, on June 23 the Cherry Hill School Board approved a $90 fee for high school students, and a $55 fee for middle school students. In an attempt to soften the blow that the middle class will feel from these fees, the school board has capped the fees at $200. Assistant Superintendent James Gallagher was quoted in the Courier-Post as saying that it would "even things out" to charge a football player $500 and a tennis player $100. This would be based on the cost of maintaining the football program, or whatever program they decide to raise the fees for students. If a family fails to pay their fee, their children are not allowed to participate in extra- as well as co-curricular activities (i.e., senior prom, etc.).
This is a disturbing new trend in New Jersey that has affected 20 school districts so far. According to the Courier-Post, Haddonfield, a town that is less than 5 minutes away from Cherry Hill, has already been charging $125 per high school student and $75 per middle school student. This came after the board had discussed fees of $300 and $200, respectively. Fees will continue to spread throughout the state and the working class and the teachers' union will continue to shoulder the burden. These fees also disproportionately affect minorities.
The first action that must be taken is continued pressure and protests of Governor Christie's budget cuts. They are no good for New Jerseyans and are hurting the minorities and the working class. Consolidation of school districts is also a necessity. With 600 school districts in only 566 townships, taxpayers in New Jersey are forced to cover the expenses of many big salaries for superintendents, assistant superintendents, as well as athletic directors, etc. The teachers' union and the working class need to unite and stand up against this GOP model of slashing the budget in the name of fighting labor, before it is exported out of the state.
Please don't let the right-wing ideals destroy the education and the future of our youth.
Photo: New Jersey high school baseball conference. (CC)