By Dr. Richard Bozza
It’s all too easy to criticize Governor Christie’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget. We are frustrated at losing valuable programs and services. We’re anxious about how our profession will fare, and who will have a job come September. We want to maintain the high quality of New Jersey education for students.
Yet Governor Christie was dealt a difficult hand. A decade of spending and a national recession combined to create an $11 billion gap. Taking office while New Jersey was in a state of fiscal emergency, Governor Christie took the steps to close that gap.
It was a daunting task and one not unfamiliar to us at NJASA. As Chief Education Officers, superintendents of schools are the ones who make those tough decisions at the local level. Many of our members have already taken salary freezes or reductions. We are working to educate principals, teachers and parents about the need to do more with less. The decisions have been painful, with superintendents meeting face-to-face with parents, teachers and community leaders to explain why favored programs and non-tenured staff won’t be around next year.
These changes may not be popular, but we recognize that they are a necessity at this point. We have the choice to embrace them, and reinvent ourselves within the new budgetary framework to ensure the continued success of our schools. Otherwise, we will simply play the victim and our students will suffer.
The NJASA will be actively involved every step of the way. Chief Education Officers and their school boards worked quickly and diligently to create vastly pared-down budgets and we will continue to adjust in the districts where budgets were defeated on April 20th. Most recently, we have asked Governor Christie for a meeting to discuss how Chief Education Officers can work with him toward a solution. The sure path to success is to do this together, government working with school administrators, boards, principals, teachers and parents.
The government has spoken. We have a job to do and we’re up to the challenge.
Dr. Richard Bozza is the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA), a Trenton-based organization of Chief Education Officers and school administrators leading public school districts in New Jersey’s 21 counties.
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