Courier News

Bridgewater Officials Urge Investment In Education

Courier News — Friday, September 29, 2006

Staff Writer

BRIDGEWATER — Educators and advocates stood outside Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School on Wednesday to ask the public and politicians to invest in education.

The news conference was called while the New Jersey Legislature is in special session to discuss property taxes.

"People tend to blame schools for property tax problems," said Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the statewide teachers union

Baker urged the lawmakers to change the formula by which schools are funded -- so school budgets aren't slashed as an attempt to calm the tax burden.

The news conference highlighted a New Jersey Citizen Action report which asks the public and lawmakers to support an educational system where all students may succeed. Mike Olender, a spokesman for the citizen watchdog coalition, said the report encourages universal early childhood care and education; access to afterschool programs; quality K-12 schooling which would prepare students for college; and affordable higher education.

The study was based on a New Jersey Citizen Action poll last summer, which found the majority of swing voters – people who don't vote along party lines – support rolling back tax cuts to the wealthy to finance investments in public education, Olender said.

Olender invited New Jersey Education Association Vice President Barbara Keshishian, Garden State Coalition of Schools Executive Director Lynne Strickland, Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association president and teacher Steven Beatty and Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School student Megan Jones to speak at the press conference.

Bridgewater-Raritan Regional Superintendent Walter Mahler, Bridgewater-Raritan's Board Secretary Peter Starrs, the Somerville school district business administrator Brian Boyce and Somerset Hills' superintendent Peter Miller shared the space behind the podium.

Mahler said Bridgewater-Raritan Schools fare well on test scores but it struggles with budgeting.

"We passed our last two budgets – after three failed," Mahler said. The district's board of education is considering asking voters for $16 million to expand the school and renovate the middle school.

"If we don't add the space, the students are still coming," Mahler said.
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