The Scotch Plains Town Council conducted open discussion on a key resolution that is to be voted on later this month - a resolution supporting the distribution of state aid for education.
The resolution, which is non-binding, is expected to primarily be a matter of documentation of the municipality’s sentiment on public school funding representing the public, council members and the mayor.
“I don’t believe that passing this resolution will have an impact at the state level.” Mayor Nancy Malool said of the state aid distribution resolution. I don’t believe that my passing this solution will have an impact at the state level. “I am supporting this resolution to get more state aid at the vert least.”
Despite the mayor’s cynicism, council members offered a spirited debate over the pros and cons of voting on the resolution. While council members Kevin Glover, Michael Marcus and William Vastine all said that they were for increased state aid, understanding the town’s real options in doing so appeared to be the $64,000 question.
“My objective was to get a better understanding of the issues,” Councilman Glover said. “The funding of today does not benefit the citizens of Scotch Plains. It is of utmost importance that our children receive a competitive education.”
While Councilman Marcus agreed that Scotch Plains should get more funding for eduction, he went one step further questioning whether the council should even form an opinion on the issue.
“I am wondering why this issue is coming up here in this forum,” Marcus said. “ This is a state issue not a local issue - sure it affects all of use but for the town council to pass judgement on this - I don’t see that action from us is necessary. Seems to be that proper forum for that discussion to be held is with the state legislators.”
Councilman Vastine countered Marcus’ opinion and stressed the importance of forming the collective opinion of the municipality.
“I think its important for use to express our opinions so that they resonate in Trenton,” Vastine said. “I agree with my colleagues that the only way we are going to pull certain members of society out of poverty is education.”
Vastine said that the education funding system is broken. As an example he said that Plainfield receives over $100 million a year for education funding and “only graduates 40% of their kids.”
“I don’t think there are any council members who are deluding themselves to believe that Scotch Plains town council’s passing of this resolution is really going to affect what happens in Trenton," Malool said.
The resolution will come up for a vote at the council’s January 17 meeting. To enhance their understanding of the issue, the mayor and council suggested inviting Senator Mike Doherty and Assemblywoman Linda Stender to the meeting in order to clarify alternative funding proposals. Senator Doherty had published one methodology for equalizing school funding across the state.