September 10, 2007

Atlantic County?s Republican legislative team said today the ?extensive corruption in the Pleasantville Board of Education should serve as a catalyst for the state to re-examine how it funds local education and whether the so-called Abbott district policy which provides additional funding to certain school districts should be substantially amended.?

?In light of the scandal and the arrests on corruption charges of five current or former members of the board of education, an in-depth look at the district?s finances and overall operation is clearly in order,? said State Sen. Sonny McCullough and his Assembly running mates, Vince Polistina and John Amodeo.

?There is an opportunity here for the state to derive some good from this shocking scandal by realizing that pouring ever-increasing sums of money into the Abbott districts does not always translate into a higher level of education,? they said. ?Non-Abbott districts with soaring enrollments are virtually left to fend for themselves while money is directed into specific districts, forcing local taxpayers to pick up the rising costs on their own.?

?As a so-called Abbott district, Pleasantville received $65 million in state aid and, as a result of the charges brought by the United States Attorney, it appears this money did not go for its intended purpose – quality education for the children of Pleasantville – but, rather was a part of scheme by some board members to line their own pockets,? they said.

?Corrupt public officials seeking bribes to award contracts were in charge of spending in the district and they enriched themselves while cheating the taxpayers and the children,? the Republicans said.

?In sharp contrast to the Pleasantville situation are the growth zone school districts of Egg Harbor, Galloway and Hamilton townships which have endured a freeze on state aid for five years, forcing local property owners to pay higher and higher taxes to cope with increased enrollments,? they said. ?The Democrat administration in Trenton promised development and enactment of a revised school aid formula, but never delivered on the promise. We are left with a system in which five per cent of the states? school districts — the Abbott districts — consume 57 per cent of the state aid total.?

?Assemblyman Jim Whelan must shoulder the blame for this situation as well,? said McCullough said. ?He campaigned in 2005 on a promise to provide relief to the taxpayers in the growth zones and has done nothing. The strain on municipal services and school districts in these three communities is enormous and growing while Whelan has stood idly by for the last two years. It?s time to remove the do-nothing legislator and replace him with the team dedicated to fulfilling promises and serving the people.?

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