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Petitioning Montclair, N.J., Board of Education

Adopt an education budget that puts children and schools first

We as parents, community members and taxpayers of Montclair, NJ, call on our board of education to adopt a budget for 2015-16 that makes the best use of our resources. Our budget needs to reflect the priorities of our community by protecting and enhancing the quality of our magnet schools that draw so many families to our town. 

The tentative budget approved by the board on March 6 in a 4-2 split vote would make unacceptable cuts at the school and classroom level, including the positions of 55 educators and support staff who work directly with our children: 18 teachers, 34 paraprofessionals and 3 student assistance counselors. This loss would damage the integrity of our educational programs, widen the achievement gap and reduce the opportunities for success for all students, including our most vulnerable children. Class sizes in kindergarten would rise; other classes would be cut; and the ratio of paraprofessionals to special needs children would increase.

The board approved its tentative budget after making only minimal reductions to expenditures that don’t directly benefit students, such as: new and expensive central office hires; consultant fees, which have nearly doubled from $2.6 million five years ago to a projected $4.8 million for 2015-16; and legal costs and court judgments, which have risen sharply.

Before the board takes a final vote on the budget on March 16, it should:

- look at other areas for possible cuts that don’t directly affect teaching and learning.

- have the district leadership consult with all principals and with representatives of teachers to identify further potential savings. (We are aware of the district meeting only once with teachers - during a break at a board meeting - when more than $200,000 in savings were found. More meetings with school staff could lead to additional savings.)

- ensure that the budget is fully transparent and that the projected $8.2 million shortfall is accurate.

We the undersigned respectfully call on the board to develop a budget that reflects our town’s priorities to protect our students and classrooms and build on the success of our schools to serve all in our community.

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