Paterson community goes to Trenton to speak out against layoffs

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Members of the Paterson school community came to Trenton Wednesday to express to state legislators why the district should continue to get state funding to prevent layoffs and cuts.

“We cannot continue. Our class sizes are going to just explode and it’s not going to be good for our students,” says Paterson School Superintendent Eileen Shafer. “We’re setting our kids up to fail.”

Paterson administrators, teachers and parents packed a state budget hearing to tell the lawmakers that proposed cuts to state aid would devastate the district, which they say is already struggling to get by.

“I teach language arts and social studies – 27 kids in each class. For social studies, I don’t have enough textbooks for the students that I teach, so they’re sharing books,” says teacher Lakresha Hodge.

Hodge is a fifth-grade teacher at Napier Academy. She says that the budget cuts would mean the laying off of 120 teachers and more than 100 other staff members. She says that cutting the funds for books would mean, “Larger class sizes. Programs that our students absolutely need would no longer be available to them.”

Some state legislators agreed with the Paterson community.

“The cuts are people who live in the neighborhoods, so it will impact our children. So if we lay off 11 secretaries, security guards and specialists, that means there are 11 families in our communities that may not eat,” says Democratic Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly.

Paterson is not the only school district facing proposed deep cuts in state aid this year.

John McEntee with the Paterson Education Association says that a fair deal for the district is one that has, “No layoffs that’s going to impact children, where there are programs that are no lost. And we just want a program that is thorough and efficient education.”

Superintendent Shafer says that the district cannot continue effectively if 232 positions are cut.

A preliminary budget including the layoffs passed the Board of Education last week. That budget is currently under review by the county, which has until April 22 to evaluate it.

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