Education is vital to our collective success

Dear Friends, Neighbors and Fellow Princetonians:

Princeton, NJ is a truly special community in which to live, with diverse offerings for an extraordinary quality of life.

There’s so much one can embrace: a thriving downtown, connection to a prestigious university, safe neighborhoods, recreational opportunities, easy access to the shore, mountains and city life. There’s Lake Carnegie for outdoor enthusiasts, McCarter for art lovers, Princeton Tigers athletics for sports fans. And yes, there’s a truly exceptional public school district for nearly 3,800 children.

As a matter of fact, education, progress and advancement have been defining features of our community for many years now. Look no further than the university, IAS, the Seminary and Westminster, among many other fine local entities that have served as anchors for our town and shaped our collective identity. Most residents take pride in our educational institutions, including our public schools, even if we don’t have a direct affiliation with them.

We understand that the November vote on the referendum has come at a time of unease. Some days are just overwhelming. From our polarized democracy and sensational news headlines to the rising cost of living and our eroding planet, we understand the need to draw the line, take control and say “enough.” We empathize with those who are apprehensive about a tax increase, and understand why some have mobilized to question the referendum and its timing.

And yet, we implore each Princetonian to consider, who will pay the price in November if the referendum fails? With our classrooms, hallways and common areas already overcrowded and our student population on the rise, and with school buildings in desperate need of improvements from security to HVAC, we are deeply concerned for our children’s experience in the years to come.

Our shared uncertainties lie at the heart of our community’s future success, and while the timing may not be ideal, if not now, when? For those opposing the referendum, please consider the hundreds of children who have only just begun their Princeton Public Schools experience. Please don’t make our kids the scapegoats for the challenges of our time.

Education is something we should all value, regardless if you currently have a child in our public schools. Education is the cornerstone of our community and vital to the continued progress of our idyllic town. If you care for the future of our children, for our schools, and for the Princeton we all know and embrace, please support the referendum and vote YES on November 6, 2018. Thank you.

In community,

Amy & Eran Zacks

Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges & Jonathan Hodges

Lesley & John Livingston

Joy Mancino & Tom McPartland

Lauren & Ari Raivetz

Abigail Rose & Adam Seiden

3 comments
  • I couldn’t agree more with the last paragraph of your letter, which is exactly why I oppose the referendum!
    Current leadership of the school system and the board does not value education in the traditional sense. If they did, they would not be fighting to reduce homework, fighting the Charter school, hiring expensive architectural firms and consultants and spending more money on athletic fields. They want to build showy and vacuous schools. This is not in the spirit of Princeton.

  • The entire town of Princeton educates our kids well, with it’s diversity & enriching offerings. We love our neighbors of all ages, races, & income levels, & their kids be they public, private, or charter. Micro-aggressions, disciplinary profiling, rushed votes, & spending proposals that will forever harm the remarkable diversity in Princeton are present realities at PPS. We can’t support these activities in the system that’s educating our kids. To give them an experience of the “collective success” that will help them best navigate our world in the future, we’ll put the collective / people first and vote “NO” to PPS referendums in the table. We pray wealthy Board leaders develop compassion towards human beings of all ages that look and spend differently from them but live here & contribute a great deal to this town’s vitality too, Princeton taxpayers are already funding 100 million +- dollars+- of open bonds/monies for PPS construction today. Many hoped for the school tax decrease promised in 2022. We’ve been enabling the poor stewardship at PPS for over a decade and can’t approve the launch of plans that will permanently harm our neighbors and our town. PPS leaders could easily create a mechanicals referendum to address AC issues. They could provide reasonable security, space & spending plans going forward too. We will remain open to any economically & environmentally sustainable plans they present that indicate they’re thinking holistically about our town and it’s people. The bundling of construction projects into large referendums seems very “exciting” but created expensive failures.

  • As a longtime resident, whose children both benefitted from Princeton’s great public schools, I agree it’s important to invest in education. However, there are many Princeton residents who are concerned about the size and scope of the Board of Education’s (BOE) plans, who question whether those plans effectively address the urgent needs of the district, and are surprised (and worried) about the lack of details provided by the BOE.

    Of great concern is the fact that the BOE has yet to disclose the TOTAL OPERATING COSTS associated with the new and expanded facilities OR how it will pay for these increased costs while staying within the 2% cap on tax increases.

    I would ask the signers of this letter: Do you know the impact that these plans will have on the PPS budget in year one? How about in five years? Ten?

    We’ve asked the BOE this multiple times without receiving a clear or complete response.

    What we do know is that the new 5/6 school will add about $1.7 million to the operating budget for new staff and HVAC costs — which effectively represents the whole of that 2% cap. When you add in the additional costs for staffing the expanded HS, the HVAC for the HS (estimated at round $250k), costs for maintaining the new 5/6 building, the expanded HS, busing students to the new 5/6 school, and maintenance of the 40-year-old buildings at Thanet Circle, or the long-term maintenance of the new astroturf fields, it is clear that the BOE will be unable to stay within that 2% cap. (This is without even including the expected increase in the base which has been increasing at a rate that is above that 2% cap for several years now.)

    Though the vote is less than 3 months away, the BOE has yet to explain how it will make up this difference to pay for this enormous expansion AND stay within the 2% cap. In the business world, this lack of clarity would be totally unacceptable. Shouldn’t we expect more from the BOE and PPS?

    Like most residents, I’m not opposed to spending money on our schools, but I do ask that the BOE serve as a deliberative body and pose the hard questions, develop thoughtful, comprehensive plans, and share the details of those plans, including the full financial impact on the community, with the community publicly. I urge my fellow communities to likewise demand this level of transparency from the BOE before the November election so we can have a proper, thorough debate about the merits of their plans — and scale back if need be.

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