***MULTIMEDIA PACKAGE*** ASSEMBLY EDUCATION COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS COMMENTARY ON SCHOOL PARTICIPATION FEES

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(TRENTON) — The Democratic members of the Assembly Education Committee issued a multimedia package Monday in which they discuss the negative impact public school participation fees for sports, clubs and other activities are having on middle-class New Jerseyans.

The multimedia package consists of a video of the committee members’ comments, audio and a transcript of same.

The video can be accessed directly via our website — www.assemblydems.com — or by clicking here.

The audio file is available upon request.

A transcript of comments from the Democratic committee members is appended below:

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer):
“Some of these things that are coming out of the school districts, where children, in order to participate — not just in athletics, but in enrichment programs; not just in enrichment programs, but even sort of clubs; everything but the “scholarly clubs” — force parents to have to incur additional costs — this is public education — in addition to the taxes that they’re already paying.

“It just seems to me that this is a penny-wise and… it’s not even penny-wise. It’s just an absolutely foolish, unacceptable, negative impact on working class people.”

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union):
“Individuals, I would say, situated the way I was when I was a child — I was raised by a single mother — and those are the individuals and families that are barely making it now, that are trying their hardest to pay for the property taxes and need the services.”

Assemblywoman Joan M. Voss, Ed.D., Assembly Education Committee Vice-Chair (D-Bergen):
“So many people have lost their jobs. So many people are having extremely difficult financial situations, that the free public education system is really essential. And then to add fees to our already stressed out people, is just — I think — egregious and we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Assembly Education Committee Chair (D-Middlesex):
“Then, this is the obvious hidden tax. One of the witnesses out here talked about $350 to participate in a sports program. That’s effectively a $350 tax increase for that family. So, across the board, it’s just an awful idea.”

Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D-Essex):
“And I think the reality of the situation is that the parents really can’t afford to pay for these services. They’re doing without a homestead rebate; their real estate taxes have gone up; and now they’ve got to pay for football or extracurricular activities. It’s really a very serious problem.”

Assemblywoman Elease Evans (D-Passaic):
“And we’re working on reducing property taxes, job losses, all these things, yet we ask parents to do more, we ask everybody — we ask the teachers, the superintendents, everyone — to do more, and we’re giving our children less.”

Diegnan:
“If we don’t make educational opportunity the clear, number one priority for the State of New Jersey, we all lose.”