More than a dozen protesters of a school gathered Thursday morning outside the Teaneck Armory, where Gov. Chris Christie was holding a press conference.
Christie was on hand to discuss sick pay reform for public workers — an issue he also focused on at a town hall meeting Tuesday in West New York. The governor wants the Legislature to scrap payouts given to government employees for unused sick time.
Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin joined other mayors, along with County Executive Kathe Donovan, at to demand action on reforms that promise to provide taxpayer savings and give "mayors the tools they need to manage their budgets and hold down property taxes for New Jersey families," according to a statement released by Christie's office this morning.
But a group of protesters, holding signs against the proposed online school, were not there to talk about sick pay reform. The group, which included parents, Teaneck Board of Education Trustees Howard Rose, Gervonn Rice and Margot Fisher, and members of the Parent Teacher Organization, is fighting to prevent approval of the proposed Garden State Virtual Charter School that district officials have said could cost Teaneck $15.4 million. About 200 people also attended a rally against the school at yesterday.
Hameeduddin said he shared concerns over the charter school with Christie.
"He listened attentively," Hameeduddin said when asked about the governor's response.
Specific laws for virtual charter schools should be developed, the mayor said.
"It's an ill-conceived idea the way the legislation is written," he said. "How can you call that responsible government."
“I don’t believe any charter school should be put in any district unless the voters get to vet it” the mayor said.
PTO Council member Louann Harbaugh called the potential cuts "devastating" on Thursday, and said she didn't understand why Christie was attacking public education.
"We'll lose everything," Harbough said. "It's all because Christie wants to open charter schools."
School officials have said the $15.4 million projected cost represented around 20 percent of the district's budget and would force painful cuts to programs and staff. Cuts could include the elimination of school trips and laying off at least 80 positions.
Rice, vice president of the Teaneck Board of Education, said she was concerned about the impact the potential cuts could have on extra-curricular activities. She stressed it was important for Teaneck's public school students to be well-rounded.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who sat in on Christie's press conference, said she hoped the governor took notice of opposition to the proposed school.
“And while the governor was in Teaneck, I hope he got the message about this community’s overwhelming opposition to the $15 million application by the Garden State Virtual Charter School, which would have a far greater and more direct impact than the sick leave payout to a career public worker," Weinberg said in a statement.
The seeking to block the charter school. State officials will announce in January if the school is approved.