TOMS RIVER – The township’s government has joined the fight in what local residents are calling an unfair drop in state aid to the school district. At the most recent Township Council meeting, the council passed a resolution supporting a lawsuit against the state and pledging $5,000 in legal expenses.
The school district is facing annual cuts over seven years, starting with the current one. Each year would see a deeper cut. At the end of the seven years, Toms River schools will have $21 million, or one third, less state aid per year.
The cumulative effect of this loss is $70,685,260 over the course of seven school years. However, if the state aid is not restored, there would be $21 million cumulative loss added every year after that.
The logic behind the loss in aid has been tied to enrollment. The schools that are losing aid are also seeing declining enrollment.
Brick Township School District is in a similar predicament. At the end of their seven years, they would see a cumulative loss of about $42 million. They hired the Weiner Law Firm of Parsippany and Red Bank to prove that the cut in state aid violates the law. Then, Toms River school district joined the suit. The Toms River Township Council has pledged its support and $5,000 toward the cause.
The move follows a swell of support for the district, as regular citizens are trying to fight back.
Bridget Maillard is a resident who created an online petition urging the governor and state lawmakers to change course on this. She thanked the council members for reaching out to her after the Board of Education joined the lawsuit last week.
She said in order to drive the point home, as many people as possible need to sign this petition, found at change.org/p/new-jersey-governor-save-our-students-help-the-students-of-toms-river-regional-schools-before-it-s-too-late.
It affects more than just families with children in the school system. The district will have to increase taxes for every resident to make up for the loss, she said.
“I would love to attach to a lawsuit a petition that has 50,000 signatures on it,” she said. It is currently almost 10,000.
“I’m tired of being the cash cow for northern Jersey and the rest of the state,” Councilman Maurice Hill said, noting how the gas tax and increased tolls affected Ocean County residents more than those in northern towns.
He also listed details about how much state aid cities like Camden and Trenton receive, and how the additional aid doesn’t help their low graduation rates. “Increased state aid doesn’t equal student success.”
He said that the state should assign a set rate per pupil, and every district gets an amount equal to the number of students. Studies have shown that this would provide more aid to certain Ocean County districts.
Councilwoman Laurie Huryk agreed with that and said that she signed the Toms River petition months ago.
“I moved here 22 years ago because of the school district – and the beaches,” she said. Her children have prospered through the education they received here. If programs have to be cut, “Toms River is just not going to be what I moved here for.”
Board of Education member Chris Raimann also thanked the council. “The $5,000 you are pledging will go a long way, hopefully, for someone in Trenton to listen,” he said. They have to know that what they are doing is going to have a negative impact on children.
How To Sign The Petition
To visit the petition, go to change.org/p/new-jersey-governor-save-our-students-help-the-students-of-toms-river-regional-schools-before-it-s-too-late
If you can’t follow the link above, use your computer, phone, or tablet and visit Change.org. On a computer, click on the symbol of the magnifying glass at the top, which opens up a spot for you to type. On phones and mobile devices, there are three horizontal lines at the top right. Tap that, and then tap “Search.” Type “Toms River save our students” and the correct choice will come up. Hit “Sign this petition.” Type in your name and email address and then hit “sign this petition” again. Your name will be added to the petition.
Council President Brian Kubiel said that the town is legally unable to put a link to the petition on the township’s website, but encouraged people to sign it and spread the word about it.
Councilwoman Maria Maruca asked that the resolution be given to the other towns that send kids to Toms River schools.