Bridget Maillard was on a mission.
After Maillard learned that the Toms River Regional School District was to lose state aid it had been promised for the 2018-19 school year, she went into action.
Maillard , the mother of three children in the school district, started an online petition in response to a letter from Superintendent of Schools David Healy about the reduction in state aid the district was forced to absorb in July. Healy warned that the district may lose an additional $5 million in state aid for the 2019-20 school year.
In his letter to residents, Healy wrote, “With the recently signed legislation (S-2), our district is required to raise taxes every year while we cumulatively lose over $70 million in school aid over the next seven years. This means that dramatic budget cuts will have to be made each and every year over that seven-year term.”
As of Sept. 14, Maillard’s petition had more than 8,900 signatures.
In her online petition, Maillard wrote that residents should “Demand that Gov. (Phil) Murphy and the state Legislature give back our school funding from the recently signed S-2 bill. Save our clubs, activities and sports. Save our students! Demand New Jersey state lawmakers repeal S-2!”
Maillard asked people to share the petition on various websites. She asked individuals who read the petition online to signify their support by typing their name and email, and clicking to sign the petition.
“I’m blown away by the support, it is amazing to me. In reading the comments on the petition that was signed, everyone seems to embrace this and everyone seems to understand it’s not just one thing, it’s all different aspects,” she said.
Budget cuts “affect everyone differently,” Maillard said. “We are not just talking about sports, we are not just talking about busing and we are not just talking about an activity. Everything is in jeopardy.”
In March, Murphy’s proposed state aid for the district for 2018-19 totaled $68.22 million. Using that number, the Board of Education adopted a $243.57 million budget for 2018-19.
In July, following negotiations with legislative leaders who proposed changing the way state aid is allocated to school districts, Murphy signed a bill (S-2) into law. The revised state aid for Toms River for 2018-19 was $65.98 million – a loss of $2.24 million.
According to district administrators, using that revised state aid number, the board reworked the budget by appropriating $1.15 million from surplus funds and adding that money as revenue and appropriating $1.2 million from maintenance reserve funds and adding that money as revenue.
Maillard said she would be willing to work with parents in neighboring school districts that are also facing a reduction in their state aid.
“I would love to see Brick Township adopt my petition and make it their own. I would be happy to work with them and get a petition going for their school district; then any other district in the state that has similar issues with cuts and severity with funding. Then we can have a more united front and really make an impact on the Legislature and the governor,” Maillard said.
Maillard said she would like to see 100,000 signatures on her petition and a Brick Township petition. Maillard said she believes more stress is now being put on parents and residents.
“The stress level goes up times a million. It’s not just for parents. It’s everybody at the Jersey Shore that was affected by superstorm Sandy. You are putting a larger burden on people who are home paying taxes, less services and there are not enough books to go around even in these schools. This is not education,” Maillard said.
Maillard said lawmakers need to take a hard look at the realities of the situation and what they are doing to the children’s futures. She said she believes that with the lottery and sports betting, there should be sufficient funding for schools.
“Everybody needs to find this petition and take a stand. Realize that jobs are at stake, futures are at stake, the actual working of the town is at stake,” Maillard said.
To find the petition Maillard created, search Bridget Maillard change.org.