By JACQUELINE DURETT
EDISON — The Board of Education wants residents to help in petitioning the state government for full funding in line with the current state aid formula.
Board member Theresa Ward (who is running for re-election) has been working on informing residents about the issue, and at the Oct. 24 meeting, said she wants to inform every taxpayer in the township directly about how much she feels students are being shortchanged.
Ward shared a report of her findings at the meeting, explaining that last year the township had 12 percent of the county enrollment and received 2.47 percent of the state aid. Of the 24 Middlesex County districts, 21 received more than Edison. If the township had shared the aid equally based on enrollment, the district would have received $4,449 per student instead of the $916 it did, she said.
Ward said she has been meeting with state legislators and groups explaining the issue with no success.
“Time is of the essence,” she said. “We shall continue to work at it. However, this community has the real stake in this, and it is incumbent upon all to join us in working to stop the procrastination and Trenton’s penchant for complexity. We call it letters, phone calls, personal contacts and/or a better idea if you have one.”
As such, she said, her recommendation, based on a resident’s suggestion, is to send her report directly to taxpayers. However, other board members were not sure whether it could be done legally at taxpayer expense, if mail was the right method and when such a report should be distributed.
Board President Frank Heelan reminded the board that it passed a resolution about this issue over the summer, and that while he agreed with Ward’s conclusions, a report could be interpreted as political, so it may not be the board’s place to send it out to residents.
“All we’re doing is informing people,” Ward countered. “We can inform.”
Board member Beth Moroney said it was the board’s responsibility to inform the public about what is going on and said that the board can write as many letters as it wants, but without groundswell support from residents, “Nothing will change. I’m with Mrs. Ward,” she said.
Board member Shivi Prasad-Madhukar said the board members should have time to review something that would be going out on their behalf, adding that she would be presenting to the board next month on state aid. Her preference was for the board to table the issue.
Board member Lori Bonderowitz asked Board attorney Jonathan Busch to look into what the board’s rights are regarding sending the report.
“If we’re not going to fight, who is?” asked Bonderowitz.
Busch said he would look into the issue and get back to the board at the next meeting with some information.
Ward said regardless of what the board decided, she would keep working on the issue.
“I’m a taxpayer, too,” she said. “The taxpayers are footing this bill and they don’t know it.”
Also at the meeting, the board unanimously approved $5 million in financing for an addition for Woodbrook Elementary School. That addition would include classrooms, a gymnasium with a stage and a full kitchen and cafeteria.