NJ Parents Paying Their Way Through Public School

By Ida Siegal
|  Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011  |  Updated 12:26 PM EDT
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Ida Siegal

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The parents in Bernards Township were celebrating the return of kindergarten Monday right.  Under a severe budget crunch after the state made drastic cuts in aid, the school board voted to cut kindergarten to half a day. 

The parents in this well-to-do community were so outraged they got together to raise the money for the full day themselves.

"We were asking each family to donate $2,000 per child, but you could donate any amount that you wanted."  Said Janina Hecht, one of the parents who spearheaded the fund raising effort.

Her 6-year-old son Samuel was worried about how his younger brother would fare with just half a day of kindergarten.

"I want my brother to be in kindergarten because I want him to learn lots more than just half day,"  Samuel explained.

And the community responded.  The parents had four weeks to raise 420 thousand dollars.  They did it and then some.  All the parents chipped in ... Even some who's children were no longer in school gave to the cause.

Bernards Township is just one of countless New Jersey municipalites now struggling to fill holes in the budget.  Last year New Jersey Governor Chris Christie slashed a billion dollars from schools - a majority of which are not able to rally the parents for an extra 420 thousand dollars.

The Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City was short about a million dollars this year after the state cuts.

"We lost 16 hundred dollars per student which was devestating," said the schools Director of Development Shelley Skinner.

That means they could no longer afford to pay a librarian, they had to eliminate teacher and assistant teach positions, art programs were slashed and the once 5 day a week spanish program was cut to once a week.

Parents like Ashima Kadyan whose 8 year old son attends school here, are afraid their children are being short changed.

"When you have a healthy school why would you want to kill it with not having enough funds ...that is criminal," said Kadyan.

Principal Janet Ciarrocca says every day they try to figure out how to stretch a shoestring budget but she could never ask her mixed income parents to raise that kind the kind of money the Bernards parents were able to raise.

"I think its wonderful that they're able to do that.  Unfortunately that's not something we're able to do here," said Ciarrocca.

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