PATERSON – Announced cuts last week to Paterson’s state-run school budget by State Commissioner of Education David Hespe enraged Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35), who is focused on getting reelected to the Assembly this year, while not ruling out a run for governor in 2017, she told PolitickerNJ this afternoon in her downtown district office.
“If the opportunity presented itself, I would not shy away from it,” said the 35th District Assemblywoman from Paterson. “We are overdue for compassion, for someone who remembers the tenants of New Jersey. After having been bombarded by transactional tactics, a woman’s touch is definitely in order. We need someone to work through the state’s tough challenges, to work with the people and to have integrity.”
The married mother of two and director of Behavioral Health Services at Mountain Hospital, Sumter said if she runs for governor she would concentrate her focus on urban centers like her home city of Paterson, the pension issue, property tax relief, equal pay for equal work, and funding for infrastructure improvements throughout the state to put people to work.
A product of Paterson Public School education who became an assemblywoman in 2012, Sumter last week bemoaned an estimated $21 million cuts to the state-run school system that forced the district to issue lay off notices to 175 teachers, 116 aides and other staff and leave an additional 200 positions vacant.
“We don’t have a decrease in enrollment, in fact we have an increase,” the assemblywoman said. “We have an increase in special education students by about 150, and yet we’re reducing instructional aides and services. My question is what are we spending on consultants that prevents us from offering a thorough and efficient education?
“I question the legality of the cuts,” she added. “At this point we are fighting to make sure students’ education is not compromised.”
The assemblywoman pointed to the lay off of a Julliard-educated music teacher from Paterson, whose classroom contains thousands of dollars-worth of new instruments. “That’s a classroom that has new instruments and no teacher,” said Sumter, who favors the release of her hometown from state takeover.
“We can’t do any worse,” she said.
The goddaughter of Democratic State Party Chairman John Currie – also a Paterson native – Sumter earlier this year year assumed the role of majority conference leader and in this campaign cycle has traveled the state in support of other candidates. She went to Salem County in the past week. On Monday, she plans to campaign in Union County with incumbent Democrats Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Jame Holley in Legislative District 20.
Others already in the public bloodstream for governor in the Democratic Party include Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), and state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20).