If the schools are closed this fall? N.J. taxpayers deserve a discount. | Rooney

By Matt Rooney
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Sorry, parents: get ready for a fall that’s as kid-crazy as this past spring.

Our overlords in Trenton are already signaling that New Jersey public schools are unlikely to resume normal in-person operations in September. It’s political for Governor Murphy; he’s said he refuses to be “beaten or bludgeoned” into reopening, a singal to his base of his willingness to stand up to the Trump Administration.

His NJEA allies are also preparing for another semester of “remote instruction.”

“Some reopening guidelines are not specific enough and leave too many questions unanswered in school districts, as parents and teachers decide if it’s safe to return to the classroom, especially when the guidelines continue to change,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan on Thursday.

Of course a lot can still happen. The curve might get flatter-er (?) to the point where even the Murphy Administration’s Soviet-style math can’t justify continuing to keep nearly everything in a state of indefinite shutdown. The NJEA might also be playing hard ball to get more concessions (“it’s for the kids,” remember?). But for now, if you were trying to place a bet, the smart money would be on another few months of Zoom classrooms and a child care nightmare for Garden State parents and guardians.

Okay. Fine.

Where’s my property tax discount?

Approximately half of the average N.J. property tax bill pays for local schools. Schools that seem unlikely to reopen in September. Yes, yes, I get it, teachers still need to be paid to work from home. Granted. Nevertheless, there are a host of expenses ranging from the electric bill to custodial services which will be nonexistent or greatly reduced with children not learning, eating, playing, etc., in physical school buildings on a daily basis for four months. Certain classes or programs can’t proceed remotely (or at least not well). No substitute teachers. No in-class aides. No buses. Furloughs and cuts should be on the table. 

The system doesn’t need your property tax dollars to cover the so-called “digital divide”; that money is allegedly going to come from a mix of federal funds and other public programs.

This is therefore an ideal opportunity to cut much of the fat that we ALL know exists in our public education system but which, for political reasons, remains an untouchable third rail of state political discourse.

I don’t want to hear your union-approved sob story. Private sector New Jersey parents are suffering, too, and I’m not just talking about the obvious headaches associate with a never-ending summer. Parents – many of whom are already in financial distress because of what this shutdown is doing to their employment – will once again need to shuffle their schedules, hire nannies/babysitters, and in some case forgo a return to active employment to take care of their children during the school day. Parents of special needs students have been affected more than most. The end result is another new massive financial burden on New Jersey taxpaying parents.

If New Jersey parents are doing more work? Then they should be paying less money to a school system freaked out by a disease that’s extremely unlikely to seriously impact the young and healthy. Phil Murphy loves to talk about a “fairer” state; this would be a great way to literally put his money (which is really our money) where his mouth is.

I’ll accept cash or (bank) check, Mr. Governor. Your credit is no good.

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Save Jersey’s Founder and Blogger-in-Chief, MATT ROONEY is a nationally-noted and respected New Jersey political commentator. When he’s not on-line, radio or television advocating for conservative reform and challenging N.J. power-brokers, Matt is a practicing attorney at the law firm of DeMichele & DeMichele in Haddon Heights (Camden County). 

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