Dozens of Lakewood Middle School teachers returned to work Tuesday morning after rumors of a district-wide labor action went around yesterday.
Asbury Park Press
I have been informed recently that 15 million dollars in School Based Youth Services funding has been eliminated by the State of New Jersey to programs in 91 school districts in the state. As I understand it, this will cause the closure of our local office on Sept. 11. I am writing to, most respectfully; express my opinion that, particularly at this time, this is an unconscionable mistake.
I base my opinion on over three decades of direct experience with this program. Being in suburban and rural areas, leaders learned through experience here that funding for social services was not available to address many of the ills that confronted our students and their families. I recall many meetings where we collaborated and desperately sought a solution to this and part of that came when we were one of the first areas to successfully demonstrate a compelling need and receive this funding. It was certainly not a standalone cure all, but it quickly became a central moving force in closely working with, supporting and coordinating what we were able to put together, through such other efforts as sports organizations, the police athletic league and the local rotary clubs. Without a direct connection such as this to the school district none of that would have been possible and many young lives would have been adversely impacted.
Over this long period, we, collectively, have been able to help thousands of children in scores of programs. Traditional areas such as psychological support and drug counseling have undoubtedly improved the lives of a generation of past and present students, but this is only the beginning of what has been achieved here. Pregnancy prevention and family services, vocational training and placement, self-esteem and bullying programs, suicide prevention and crisis intervention services, vocational, safe recreational and mentoring programs, career exploration and reduction in at risk behaviors are but a few of the programs that have been hosted. In addition, this office has been an anchor for many charitable efforts including recovery efforts after hurricanes and disasters and, in addition thousands of children and families have been able to celebrate holidays with both food and holiday gift support where there would have otherwise been none in many cases. In short, this effort, to us, means a successful investment of relatively few dollars for a great realized gain. This gain did not accrue only to the recipients themselves, but to the community as a whole. The volunteer opportunities it has created for those more fortunate, for example, has created erstwhile community service for them and a better, more caring community for us all.
Monumental decisions like the elimination of this funding should never be made in a vacuum. Conditions like the release of thousands of unsupervised mentally challenged New Jerseyans into our communities by prior administrations have shifted the burden of reaction and response to police and schools. The loss of these funds will doubtless make these efforts nearly impossible in that it is often impossible to successfully react after opportunities to otherwise intervene and support have been otherwise squandered. I would like to make one last point. With the COVID-19 and late unrest situations in our state and nation, there has been a great emphasis on creating partnerships with social services and law enforcement in an effort to avert avoidable and tragic results. Here, for the “saving” of relatively few government dollars we are, effectively, tearing many such successful arrangements apart.
As I said, eliminating this vital safety net for our children and families is an avoidable and inexcusable action, especially now.
Chief Richard J. Buzby, Jr. of Little Egg Harbor Twp. Police Dept.
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