Two days after his fiscal year 2025 budget address, Gov. Phil Murphy on Feb. 29 visited a Plainfield elementary school for an event to emphasize the proposed budget’s $900 million increase in public education funding.

“This is not only the single largest investment in New Jersey’s public education system in our entire history, it is also the single largest investment in our entire budget, period,” Murphy said.

He added, “Every additional dollar that the state spends on public education — that’s a dollar that our taxpayers get to save in property taxes locally. But most importantly, fully funding our public education system is in many ways the centerpiece of our administration’s vision for making New Jersey the best place anywhere in America to raise a family.”

Among the guest speakers was AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera, who closed the event by offering a view of the budget from a teacher perspective.

“As a teacher in Perth Amboy, this is the time of year I hated the most,” she said. “Because the budget was going to be announced by a governor, and within days, the commissioner of education was going to give everyone the amount of money they had to spend next year. [And although] we had a funding formula, it was never fully funded.”

She added, “The instability of funding in the education system is one of the main reasons we have issues in the education system. Because you could never put a program in, even if it’s working, and count on it being there for years to come. Because you never know what comes next year.

“Thirty-three years in the classroom, 12 years as president of AFT New Jersey, I never thought I’d see the day where I could say, ‘Education in New Jersey is fully funded.’ And while we’re here celebrating this [today] … [and we could celebrate] when the budget is signed … after the celebration, we need to continue to work. Because this only works if next year we’re standing here and saying, ‘For the second year in a row, we are fully funded.’ And [a decade] from now, we are still putting education first and we are saying, ‘Education is fully funded.’”

ABOVE: AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera speaks Feb. 29 at Charles and Anna Booker Elementary School in Plainfield. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

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