April 30, 2019-- Teachers, board members, administrators, and 11 buses full of students from Toms River Regional Schools returned to Trenton today to voice opposition to the state aid cuts in Bill S2.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing provided the backdrop for the district's return visit to Trenton following its well-publicized rally March 5. The morning kicked off with a press conference led by Support Our Students (SOS) chair and Southampton Superintendent Michael Harris and featuring comments from Lenape Regional High School District Superintendent Dr. Carol Birnbohm; TRRS Superintendent David Healy; Toms River Councilmember Maurice Hill; NJEA President Marie Blistan; and NJREA President Judy Perkins. These district and community leaders, in front of a lineup of news cameras, spoke to the hundreds of supporting students and stakeholders in attendance about the adverse effects of S2, and urged Trenton lawmakers to reconsider and revise the flawed funding formula on which the bill is based.
Hooper Avenue Elementary teachers Jennifer Zieser and Karen Husenica-- who orchestrated the district's letter-writing campaign-- also spoke on behalf of their students.
Speaking of letters ... today also provided the opportunity for students to hand deliver to state lawmakers some 30,000 letters requesting an end to state aid cuts. Receiving those letters on behalf of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee was its chair, Senator Paul Sarlo, who graciously accepted mail sack after mail sack, commenting at one point, "Wow, I've got a lot of reading to do!"
State education funding was the main topic of discussion at the Senate budget hearing, where NJDOE Commissioner Lamont Repollet spoke to legislators and answered questions, the first one of which pertained to S2. Students, teachers, and the district's SOS cohorts filled the statehouse chambers as Dr. Repollet acknowledged the hardships faced by districts losing significant funding, and assured lawmakers his department is pursuing pathways to work with those negatively impacted by S2.
Coverage of the day was provided by TRSTV, which produced this video:
Prior to embarking for Trenton, Superintendent Healy released an invitation to Governor Phil Murphy; Senate President Steve Sweeney; Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin; and Commissioner Repolllet to visit Toms River to discuss S2. As a whole, the day's events provided another important chapter in the district's ongoing efforts to restore its funding. Additional photos are below.