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Protestors confront Senate President Sweeney over school funding, vaccination bills

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Dozens of protesters confronted New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney Tuesday morning to express their concern about school funding and vaccination bills in the Legislature.

The group met Sweeney outside the Grove Restaurant in Toms River, where Sweeney was speaking at a gathering of Ocean County mayors. They said that they are concerned about the two bills – one would end most exemptions to mandatory vaccinations, while the other would adjust the formula as to how public schools are funded.

Towns like Brick and Toms River have threatened to eliminate dozens of teacher positions and after-school activities due to the proposed funding cuts. But Sweeney blamed the districts for not planning ahead.

“And unfortunately, Toms River relied on the state’s overfunding so they could go around saying, ‘Look, we didn’t raise taxes. Look, what great government we are, we didn’t raise taxes.’ Elected officials love to say that,” Sweeney says. “Unfortunately, at some point you have to deal with reality; you’re not entitled to deal with more than 100% funding.”

RELATED: Slap in the face: Toms River parents, students take to Trenton over budget cuts 

Toms River Schools Superintendent Dave Healy responded to Sweeney’s claims and once again requested to see the math formula used to come up with the funding percentages.

“We’re doing a lot with what is considered the lowest pupil cost for the state of New Jersey, yet we throw millions and millions that are spending $40,000 a student and in some cases, get no results,” Healy says.

Meanwhile, the bill to end most vaccine exemptions drew an equal number of protesters.

RELATED: Protest held outside State House as lawmakers consider vaccine exemption bill 

“We have to worry about public health, so banging the drum and coming out protesting - they can do all that, they are entitled to do all that. I believe they have the right to do whatever they want, but I have a right to do what's responsible to make the people in this state stay healthy,” Sweeney says.

But the protestors say that the government would be overstepping its bounds.

"And that is the international human rights and bioethics standard. The individual takes the decision, not the state. It's literally a fascist policy to have the state decide how to treat someone rather than the individual,” says Kevin Barry, with FirstFreedoms.org

Sweeney says that he is only one vote shy of the state Senate passing the vaccine exemption bill. Sweeney and Healy will continue their school funding issues later on this week.


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