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Op-Ed: FLEA President Chides BOE Leaders for ‘Partisan Political Posturing’

Gary Novosielski took issue Monday with a statement by BOE president Arthur Levine and vice president Linda McCue on a 28.3 percent increase in state aid to Fort Lee schools.

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of a statement made by Gary Novosielski, president of the Fort Lee Education Association (FLEA) to the Monday, Feb. 27, at the BOE's regular business meeting. Novosielski provided the statement to Patch to publish as an Op-Ed piece/letter to the editor:

It was shocking to me to read the quote in a recent Fort Lee Patch article attributed to board president Levine and vice president McCue, jointly stating that "As a result of [Governor Christie’s] initiatives upon taking office, [we’ll] become the beneficiary of additional funding for the Fort Lee School District."

The fact is that even if the governor’s budget were to pass exactly as proposed, Fort Lee would still be lagging far behind where it was when Mr. Christie took office. The two board leaders are quoted as saying, “This funding will allow us to maintain and, in some instances, enhance some of our existing programs and educational resources.”

Really? Will this “enhancement” bring us back to the quality of education we enjoyed before his term began, or will it leave us still suffering from the drastic program cuts, staffing cuts, missing textbooks, overcrowded classrooms and filthy hallways brought about by Christie’s “enhancements” of two years ago, when school aid was slashed by the governor to the tune of almost a billion dollars state-wide?

According to Mr. Levine and Mrs. McCue, “This proposed funding puts the rumor to rest that [Christie] does not value public education.”

Is it a rumor that Christie cut millions from Fort Lee’s budget, then restored only thousands? If a burglar stole a thousand dollars from me, then returned a hundred dollars of my own money, I doubt that I would thank him. Is it a rumor that the cuts to state aid were matched almost dollar-for-dollar by a cut in taxes for millionaires? Is it a rumor that his proposed budget once again includes windfalls for the rich and crumbs for working men and women? Is it a rumor that Christie has capped growth in school spending at 2 percent per year while, over the period since his inauguration, tax payments of the average property owner have risen by over 20 percent? With friends like the governor, who needs enemies?

In that same time period, the Fort Lee Education Association agreed to give-backs, saving the district and its taxpayers over $8 million over the course of our current contract. This dwarfs any rumored enhancements promised by the governor. And unlike the governor’s seeming largess, our contributions came directly from our benefits, not from some other tax source.

I am dismayed that the board would engage in partisan political posturing by endorsing the actions of a governor who in his short time in office has exhibited the most reprehensible of bullying tactics and the most divisive party-line policies and practices of any governor within living memory. It is an insult to the board’s employees, who have contributed so much without a word of thanks, to hear such praise for a governor whose every act has had the effect of dismantling, piece-by-piece, the successful school system we have all worked so hard to preserve.

-Gary Novosielski

President - Fort Lee Education Association

Keith Jensen March 03, 2012 at 04:17 PM
A property tax rebate! The Governor proposed increasing Fort Lee’s funding by $429k for the next fiscal year, nearly a 30% increase. A refund to the taxpayers is up to the Board of Education. I checked with the Governor's office and they confirmed, "it’s up to the local districts on how to spend the money." My request to the Board of Education is to give the money back to the taxpayer. Then manage our resources better, so in the future we don't need to put a tax abatement on the residents and tax paying businesses for not having capital funding for boilers and other infrastructure projects. As a compromise, since its a relatively small amount of money than the $27Millon Dollars we already send in our education tax dollars to places like Hoboken, place this $1/2 Million in an untouchable interest bearing fund for future capital projects. Then, press the Mayor and Council to take up a vote as the Board of Education has already endorsed to have the courage to vote yay or nay on this resolution demonstrating the present school funding formula is not fair to anyone.
Keith Jensen March 04, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Gov. Christie is sending back peanuts to towns like Fort Lee, as we here in FL just received $500K. While a place like Passaic is getting an additional $50 million! : http://www.northjersey.com/news/141278103_Big_plans_in_place_for_state_aidto_Passaic_school_district.html Or how Hoboken just rewarded their educators with a raise of over 10% ! http://www.nj.com/jjournal-news/index.ssf/2012/02/hoboken_teachers_and_schools_s.html They can do this because they are still an Abbott District. We in Bergen County are paying for it! Fort Lee just passed a $30M referendum to buy boilers, paint, and roof shingles, but forget about raises for Bergen County teachers and school employees, because we'll send that to places like Hoboken. It is unbelievable compared to FL that Hoboken will give a 10% raise to all their employees in the education system, offer free pre-K to ALL of their residents (even if they are Eli Manning who lives there) and more handouts... all at our expense. Get loud Fort Lee, or wait for the next referendum, because the builders of Redevelopment Zone 5 are not putting anything towards our school system.
William Mays March 04, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Eli Manning is not the only resident of Hoboken, you know that Darryl Strawberry among many other famous people live in Fort Lee, using your ideology, that means that we shouldn't get state aid either right?
William Mays March 04, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Really Keith? I think you've just revealed your true nature, you want to stuff your pockets, instead of giving our kids having a quality education.

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