Former BOE member dismayed by election results

I am extremely disappointed with the budget vote. The cuts we had to make to bring the budget within 2 percent were difficult enough.

To think we will have to cut further is gut wrenching. As it stands now, the jobs of some outstanding teachers might be eliminated, causing increases in class size for the second year in a row. Also, we may have to cut additional extracurricular offerings, and charge higher fees for sports and busing.

Upper Freehold Regional School District (UFRSD)’s scores are well above the state average, and our costs are lower than average; we built a much needed school, which was completed on time and under budget. If people are voting “no” to show how angry they are at the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

While anger may have downed last year’s budget, I would say that apathy is what failed it this year. There are people who routinely vote “no” on school budgets, regardless of circumstances solely to send an “anti-tax” message. However, this year’s no vote could have been outnumbered if supportive parents had just shown up to vote. Voter turnout was abysmal across the board. Upper Freehold Districts 2 and 4, where there is a high concentration of parents with children in the school was very low. It is truly disheartening that after thousands of hours of painstaking work by both district staff and volunteers, parents couldn’t take five minutes to vote for the sake of their children’s education. Residents shouldn’t expect that someone else will get the job done. We all need to toe the line for successful schools. The most common excuse for not voting that I’ve heard is, “I was too busy.” Let’s face it. We’re all “too busy” with work, our children, activities etc. It’s just irresponsible not to vote.

On a macro level, the entire funding process is ludicrous. The only budget voters get to vote on is the school budget. Voters do not have that privilege with their federal, state or municipal budgets. If we have the same cap requirements as the municipal budget, why not vote on their budget proposal? Why not at the county or state level? Either we should be able to vote on every budget, or we vote on no budgets (that are within the cap). Personally, I would like us to be able to vote on all budgets, and see the municipal, county and state budget process as open and transparent as the school budget process has been.

As far as my time on the board, it was, at times, extremely difficult and challenging, and at other times incredibly rewarding. I believe I accomplished everything I said I would when I first ran six years ago. We got the new middle school opened, we improved our test scores, and we hired an excellent superintendent.

While I agree with so many people that issues like tenure, NJEA contracts, state aid, Abbott districts, and property taxes need attention, these are issues that cannot be fixed at the local board of education level. They must be addressed at the state level.

I hope that our district will continue to improve curriculum and continue to strive to be better each and every year. Unfortunately, that is made more difficult with the shortsightedness of voters who voted down a very reasonable budget.

Joe Stampe

Former member

of the Upper Freehold Regional

Board of Education