In a delightful — and necessary — sign of a furious protest, students in New Jersey left their classrooms yesterday and took to the streets to reject the absolute decimation of their schools by newly elected governor Chris Christie. Christie cut $820 million from the schools in an effort to keep a campaign promise to reduce spending. The protest was inspired by, and directed through, a Facebook movement to fight back against an unfair budget axe.
With their protests, the students sought to send a message to Gov. Christopher J. Christie, a Republican whose reductions in state aid to education had led many districts to cut staff and programs and to ask for larger-than-usual property tax increases. Mr. Christie, who has taken on the state’s largest teachers’ union in his efforts to close an $11 billion deficit, has proposed reducing direct aid to nearly 600 districts by an amount equal to up to 5 percent of each district’s operating budget.
“It feels like he is taking money from us, and we’re already poor,” said Johanna Pagan, 16, a sophomore at West Side High School in Newark, who feared her school would lose teachers and extracurricular programs because of the governor’s cuts. “The schools here have bad reputations, and we need aid and we need programs to develop.”
Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, released a statement on Tuesday saying that students belonged in the classroom. “It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever,” Mr. Drewniak said, “and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey.”
It doesn’t help the situation when Michael Drewniak belittles the valiant effort of the students to be heard against the political din by labeling their action “spring fever.”
Why can’t the governor’s office be gracious in their dark dimming of New Jersey classrooms?
Why not congratulate the students on their want to be heard and appropriately educated?
Why not celebrate the inspiration instead of demeaning the result?
New Jersey needs to spend more money on education, not less, because, as we’re about to find out — idle minds pressed into the street instead of a classroom seat — find ways to entertain their bored minds with petty, public annoyances, and other, more devastating criminal acts in order to pay the rent and feed empty bellies when the diploma fails.
Governor Christie must be cautious — because one fatal swing of his budget axe might look like a quick education solution — but that cutting arc of the mind can quickly create an endless budget bleeding elsewhere as the criminal courts swell and prison populations rise in sympathetic response.