TOMS RIVER – With Toms River losing as much as $83 million in state aid over the next six years, anything is possible – including cutting after school activities.
Without clubs and sports, children and teenagers will have more time after school unattended by adults, and that’s when they get into trouble, stated a letter from Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer. It was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, House Speaker Craig Coughlin, Department of Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, and other decision makers.
“Approximately 13,000 students in Toms River Schools participate in extra-curricular activities and/or athletic programs,” his letter stated. “For these students, their day does not end in the early afternoon. The research is very clear that after school hours tend to be the most generative time for juvenile delinquency and problem behaviors. In fact, during the school week, studies show that juvenile crime peaks between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The importance of after-school extracurricular activities and athletic programs cannot be understated.
“I truly believe there is a direct correlation between how adolescents spend their time and juvenile delinquency. Adolescents that spend their after-school time with positive adult supervision exhibit better behavioral outcomes, including fewer delinquent behaviors, better school performance and higher positive aspirations. The ripple effect of the reduction in State aid in Toms River clearly goes beyond the classroom,” he wrote.
In some cases, it’s a life or death situation. Ocean County is in the midst of one of the worst opioid epidemics anyone has ever seen, he said. Having teenagers be unattended will certainly cause more addiction and overdoses.
The prosecutor has been one of many to call on Trenton to change the funding formula. Large groups of students, faculty, and supporters have rallied in Trenton, first for the State Assembly Budget Committee hearing and most recently for the Senate Budget Committee Hearing.
They have been stating that the funding formula has been flawed for years, and this most recent change is just furthering the flaws. They demand a joint legislative committee to be immediately convened, with an aggressive timeline, to fix it.