Letter Asking Governor to Restore Lost Aid to Schools Opens Door for Many Supportive Comments
Larissa Milligan's letter to Christie and state representatives gains praise in online comments.
Larissa Milligan cc'd a few extra people when she mailed a letter to N.J. Governor Chris Christie in mid-January asking him to reconsider his policies toward distributing educational funds in the state after his approach last year resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in state aid to the Bernards Township school district.
Luckily, along with sending copies of her letter to the state's educational officials and state officials such as Assemblywoman Denise Coyle, Assemblyman Peter Biondi, State Senator Christopher Bateman, she sent us a copy to post here at the Basking Ridge Patch.
Milligan's letter drew 24 comments on Patch, and even a reference at Monday night's Board of Education meeting. The issue came up that night of whether to again invite state representatives to a future board meeting to discuss the impact and what is considered the unfairness of deep cuts in state aid to local schools.
In her letter, Milligan wasted no time in reviving Christie's own words to back her position:
"Governor Christie said in his ‘State of Emergency’ address that he would take …"Not one dime out of the classroom…Not one child’s education compromised for one minute. " In his State of the State address he proclaimed, “We must reform our schools to make them the best in the nation.” But in Bernards Township, which is one of the best in the nation, our classrooms are being dramatically, directly and negatively impacted." She referred to the accolades the district has received in such national publications as Newsweek and Forbes.
CT responded by 6:23 a.m. on the morning that the letter was published (Jan. 18) responded with the first of many approving comments:
"Bravo! Should we start a petition? How can we make sure Governor Christie hears us?"
A few minutes later, resident and former school board member Lisa Winter posted her own comment:
"This is a great letter. I think we should all write letters to our State representatives and the Governor - let them know how Bernards Township schools are being affected by this drastic and unfair reduction in state aid."
Letter writers then debated on how to tackle the funding problem. Resident Doug Wicks even produced his own video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6jGAywjD7s.
Several letter writers including n and X said that any efforts by Coyle to get the state to allow districts to accept donations for programs such as full-day kindergarten are at best a stop gap measure.
"Institutionalizing kindergarten tuition through Ms. Coyle’s bill is not what is needed at all. A fair distribution of school aid is what is needed. Such a law could be a death knell for non-tuition full day programs because districts will likely choose to charge if they are able to. I understand that there are extenuating circumstances due to the change in aid and was willing to donate for a full day program this year for my son. But I pay a huge amount of taxes and want a fair distribution of school aid so I do not need to pay to a future kindergarten initiative for my younger children."
By Friday, Laura Milligan responded to the comments on her earlier letter:
"I am glad this is generating so much enthusiasm and passion. I attended and voiced my opinions at a public hearing last night in Edison with State Senator Buono, Assemblyman Diegnan and Assemblyman Barnes regarding the 'Impact of the Governor's cuts to Public Education'. While I was one of only a handful of parents to speak (there were many representatives from various teachers and superintendents' unions/organizations as well as a number of students), I felt it was important.
I think it would be great if we could get such a forum in Bernards Township for parents to speak with our representatives or state legislative Education Committee reps. to voice our opinions."
Milligan again asserted that township schools are doing "a lot 'right' here and we should be used as a model. Maybe we could invite Governor Christie or the new Education Commissioner to visit our school system and see how we have done it so they can understand the predicament they are putting us in."
Milligan said the Board of Education should work together with others in the community to "bombard" Trenton to let state officials know the township's situation. "It seems there are other towns in this situation as well that may lend their voices as well. Fair is fair - and this just isn't."
Lisa Winter wrapped up the 24th and last (so far) comment on Milligan's follow-up comment:
"I think that is a WONDERFUL idea! It would be great to invite our representatives - Kip Bateman, Denise Coyle, Peter Biondi - to a forum to learn about what's going on in our school district. Another district we could invite might be Chatham - they are in a very similar situation as us - high quality district, lower cost, really hit hard by these budget costs...I'm also interested in that "Save our Schools" organization - I'm going to look into that as well. The more people joined together in this effort to preserve our schools, the better."
What do you think about this situation? Do you think Gov. Christie will listen to letter writers such as Milligan and the voices of local officials when deciding how to distribute education funds throughout New Jersey for next year? Please tell us what you think in the comments section.