Governor Christie’s proposed 2010-2011- budget calls for sharp cuts in aid to suburban school districts and municipalities. In some towns school districts will see a 100% reduction in their state aid, despite the fact families are paying millions of dollars in state income taxes that are supposed to offset property taxes in all communities. In other words, the income tax is a big scam–nothing more than a redistribution tool foisted on New Jersey by a mendacious state Supreme Court to funnel more taxpayer dollars from upper and middle income communities to very high cost urban school districts.
In some suburban communities, public school teachers have agreed to a one year salary freeze in order to save jobs of their colleagues. In other districts, teachers are balking at any sort of “giveback”‘ as a violation of their contracts. In Bergen County several school districts are contemplating taking donations from individuals, corporations and foundations to close the budget gap. In Woodcliff Lake, parents wanted to raise $100,000 to save jobs but abandoned the effort. In Paterson a former teacher may start a fundraising effort to help pay for athletics program.
Suburban school districts, in light of the state’s financial reality, must become more “entrepreneurial. In short, if the state is no longer going to provide any aid or minuscule amounts at best, school districts’ choices are clear: raise property taxes, cut expenditures, or do some combination of the two. However, there are alternatives: begin charging a modest tuition fee and begin an endowment fund like institutions of higher education, museums, hospitals and other nonprofit organizations.
School districts that are losing state aid should take the money from all sources to close their budget shortfalls. It is disingenuous for school administratiors and school board officials to complain that they have to cut teaching postitons and programs but do not raise the funds that are undoubtedly availble if they undertake a fundraising campaign.
Public education is supposed to have the support of all New Jerseyans across the political spectrum. Now this assertion is about to be tested. If people support their local schools as they claim to, then people should step up to the proverbial plate and put their money where their collective mouths are and write a check to support education in their respective communities.
Local education foundations in New Jersey can be the major conduit for the public to show their support for their local schools. Taxing to support most public sector institutions is gravely flawed. (See my Tax Free 2000). A new method to pay for desirable public services must replace the tax and borrow paradigm that has brought us to the brink of financial ruin.