Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) issued the following statement regarding today’s conversation with the NJ Department of Education Commissioner Hespe:
“Last year, we spoke to the education commissioner on the status of takeover districts. There was no mention of cuts to staffing by the commissioner. A month later Paterson School District lost over 300 teachers and staff to layoffs. This is unacceptable.
“The suggestion of a tax levy on already overburdened Paterson taxpayers – who have seen their property taxes increase 56% over a 6 year period – to support education is also unacceptable.
“The City of Paterson has spent 25 years under state control. The district is underfunded by $281 million in state aid. A large amount of classes do not have certified teachers. There are 29,000 students in the district and over 400 teachers have been laid off in the last year.
“The current perspective on handling poor performing school districts has to change. We cannot continue to blame these districts, which do not have control over their own administration and finances, for poor decisions. These decisions are being made for them.
“How do we place great emphasis on PARCC testing and preparing students for this test when they must learn in dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classrooms and with diminished resources?
“We must look at state takeover districts with more concern, and figure out what has gone wrong and address it.
“We are bound by law to provide the children of New Jersey a quality and equitable education. We all know that is not the case in many districts across the state, particularly state-controlled school districts. We have to do better.”