Child Advocate Says NJ Kids on Christie’s Budgetary Back Burner
The lion's share of the discussions in Trenton these days revolve around replenishing the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund and funding the public employees' pension system. A leading child advocate told the Assembly Budget Committee that kids in the Garden State are largely being forgotten in Gov. Chris Christie's Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal.
"We've heard comments regarding the pension. There's a lot of conversation about the Transportation Trust Fund. Those items are the focus. The result however is that the needs of thousands of children are being placed on the budgetary back burner," said Mary Coogan, assistant director for Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
At $12.75 billion, the budget plan laid out by Christie in February called for a record amount of school aid. Pre-school education funding would go up by $2.7 million under the proposal, but Coogan said that's not good enough.
"This less than 1 percent increase does not even begin to cover the costs that school districts face to provide quality early education for our young learners," Coogan said. "This lack of adequate funding will likely lead to drastic cuts including, support staff, supplies, field trips and other necessities."
Roads and bridges are important to the economic health of the state, Coogan said, adding that the health and development of children is also important.
"Families put their children first. So should the state. We will pay one way or another through increased special education costs lower high school graduation rates and increased youth involvement in the criminal justice system," Coogan said.
Not all of the news is bad. Coogan applauded the Christie Administration for improving the state's school breakfast program, by bringing $44 million federal dollars to New Jersey to feed 75,000 additional children every day.