Page B2 Thursday, April 15, 1999 The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains – Fanwood A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION
CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Every Voice in Education Matters; Become Active In
School Board Issues
From the Governor's Desk
Christine Todd Whitman was elected the 50th Governor of New Jersey in 1993 and reelected in 1997. Governor Whitman is a former President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and a former Director of the Somerset County Board of Freeholders. She gained public attention when she nearly upset United States Senator Bill Bradley in 1990.
By CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN The Welfare of Our Children
Is A NJ Legislative Priority By DONALD T. DIFRANCESCO
Donald T. DiFrancesco, a Scotch Plains resident, is President of the New Jersey State Senate. He has served in the Legislature since 1976. He has held the post of Senate President since January, 1992. He represents the 22nd Legislative which includes Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Mountainside.
New Jersey today stands in the midst of an economic boom. Unemployment levels and crime rates are at record-low levels, and the state budget boasts a $1 billion surplus.
Times are good in the Garden State, and the Legislature is continuing to map a strategy that will improve the quality-of-life for every New Jersey citizen as we move into the next millennium.
While we will certainly continue to focus on the fiscal and environmental issues important to our citizens, in this last year of the 20th century, I would like to build a truly lasting legacy for the 208th Legislature by making our children's safety, welfare and future our top priority.
In New Jersey, any discussion about our children's future must begin with the quality of our schools and the education provided to our students. This year's budget, more so than any previous spending plan, ensures that our children have the necessary tools to prepare themselves for the job markets of tomorrow.
Total state aid to education amounts to nearly $6.4 billion, an increase of $387 million in formula aid.
The state budget also recognizes that our children need safe, adequate classrooms in which to learn, and therefore includes $50 million to be used to provide debt service aid for $500 million in bond funds dedicated for an anticipated massive school construction initiative.
Under this building program, all school districts would be eligible to seek 10 percent of their cost of new construction or improvements to existing buildings.
There are numerous school districts across the state that due to increased enrollment projections or deteriorating buildings need to renovate their schools or build new classrooms.
This school construction initiative will help our schools literally rebuild themselves for the new millennium, and I look forward to crafting a specific spending proposal along with my colleagues before year end.
Every year, the Legislature works hard to provide for our children's future. This year, I would like to make an additional investment in protecting their future.
In December, I unveiled a $3.5 million initiative designed to combat child abduction, known as KidTrak. It would equip every police department in New Jersey with a high-tech tracking system called TRAK (Technology to Recover Abducted Kids).
It's a chilling fact that 2,300 children are being abducted across the country right now. Remarkably, most police departments do not have the necessary tools and equipment to mount a quick and effective search.
The FBI has stated that the first two to four hours is crucial in finding a missing child. That is where TRAK is so successful. By utilizing a computer, scanner, color printer, modem and user-friendly software, the police can quickly create and electronically distribute color flyers of missing children to Fax machines in other police stations, schools, news rooms, airports, and bus terminals in seconds.
Already implemented in limited regions of the country, TRAK is a proven lifesaver. It is time to give New Jersey the most comprehensive child-locating system in the nation by implementing TRAK statewide.
While a missing or abducted child can be a parent's worst nightmare,
caring for a child with a serious illness without health insurance can also be a devastating experience for parents, emotionally and financially. That is why in 1997, I s p o n s o r e d KidCare legislation to provide health insurance to children from working families who were uninsured.
Since then, there have been many success stories of families who used the KidCare program to get their child medical care that otherwise would not have been covered. Enrollment, however, has fallen short of expectations and the program has failed to reach all the families who need assistance.
In order to reach our goal of guaranteeing health insurance coverage for all of the state's children by the year 2000, in February I placed a bipartisan bill package on the fasttrack to boost enrollment and cut red tape in the subsidized insurance program.
The package would create a partnership between KidCare and New Jersey's public and private schools, federally qualified health clinics and licensed day care centers to help enroll eligible children. Children would be provided with KidCare information at these schools, clinics and centers, and the institutions that assist in the enrollment process will receive a $25 grant per family.
Our objective in the Legislature is to meet our responsibility to address the needs of every citizen living within New Jersey's diverse community. We're protecting the environment by putting a plan in place to preserve one million acres of open space.
We're protecting taxpayers by passing legislation to give working families a $1 billion property tax rebate plan, as promised by Governor Christine Todd Whitman. There is, however, more work to be done in order to protect the welfare, safety and future of the next generation of citizens.
The Legislature's commitment to our children's education, to their safety and to their health and welfare represents our desire to meet our responsibility to the citizens of tomorrow.
Legislation Strives to Protect Kids From Internet Dangers
By BOB FRANKS
Bob Franks of Berkeley Heights has represented the Seventh Congressional District since 1993 after serving in the State Assembly. The District includes Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Mountainside.
The Internet has opened up an exciting world of discovery for our kids. Today, across America, more than half the classrooms are connected to the Internet and an estimated 11 to 15 million children are online. Within seconds, children can find up-to-date information on every conceivable topic they are studying in school.
But this extraordinarily powerful learning tool can also have a dark and threatening side. Pedophiles and other criminals are using the Internet to contact our children in those places where we want to believe they are most secure — in our homes, our schools and our libraries.
The reality is that materials breeding hate, violence, pornography and even personal danger can be waiting only a few "clicks" away. Online predators can pose as children, win the confidence of a child and then arrange a meeting with an unsuspecting victim.
In fact, Cyber Angels, an affiliate of the Guardian Angels, has documented more than 17,000 Internet sites devoted to child pornography and pedophilia. Moreover, the FBI reports that pornography sites are literally the most frequent accessed sites on the Net.
Despite these concerns, I believe every child in America should have access to this amazing learning tool —
provided we take special precautions. The Children's Internet Protection Act, which I am sponsoring, would require schools and libraries to use filtering technology if they accept federal subsidies to connect to the Internet. Filtering software — which many parents already have installed on their home computers — would keep materials designed only for adults, out of the reach of our children.
The concept of placing restrictions on the kind of inf o r m a t i o n available to our children is not new. For generations, schools and libraries have routinely decided what books are appropriate for children to read. My legislation would merely require that these institutions exercise the same standard of care when it comes to the latest advances of me Information Age.
We wouldn't allow pornographic materials on the shelves or our school libraries. We should make sure our children aren't exposed to these same images when their surfing the net in the classroom.
While the bill requires schools and libraries to use blocking technology, it leaves it up to the local school district and library board to determine the type of filtering technology to use. It's important that parents and educators in our local communities set their own standards.
With schools and libraries lining up to take advantage of the $1.9 billion in special telecommunications discounts now available from the federal government to connect to the Internet, this legislation is a prudent and necessary step.
It will ensure that our children can take advantage of this powerful learning tool without being assaulted by materials that are not only inappropriate, but dangerous for our children.
"The reality is that materials breeding
hate, violence, pornography and even
personal danger can be waiting only a few
– Congressman Franks
I believe strongly in the power of participation. We all have something to contribute, whether by volunteering our time, voicing our opinion, or taking a leadership role.
I have seen firsthand how participation can make a difference in our schools.
By including a wide array of people in our discussions about developing a core curriculum, the State of New Jersey developed truly rigorous standards that have broad support and will make a real difference in our schools.
More recently, by enlisting parents, teachers, and other citizens willing to participate in a bold venture, we put in place exciting charter schools across the state.
From core standards to charter schools, as we encourage participation, we bring more perspectives to bear on the future of our schools. What's more, as we bring more people into the process, we give them more of a stake in our success – and thus a greater incentive to care about what happens in our schools.
On that note, I want to encourage all New Jerseyans to take part in this year's school elections.
We in state government have worked hard to spark increased, informed participation by providing the public with unprecedented access to information. During my term as Governor, we have re-instituted
school report cards, published a comparative spending guide, and required districts to send sample ballots to every household each April.
Even with all this valuable information readily available, the disappointing truth is that the vast majority of New Jerseyans still do not cast a vote each April.
We live in a democracy – a participatory democracy. It's a disservice to democracy that so few people take part in school elections.
Consider what's at stake. A school board's responsibilities are considerable – from hiring superintendents to approving curriculum to deciding what texts are used in the classroom.
Beyond the school-book argument for participation is the pocketbook one. School budgets make up by far the largest portion of the property tax bill – and the only part that comes up for a direct vote by the public.
An effective school board can have a dramatic effect on the quality of education in that community by assuring that education dollars are spent where they belong – in the classroom.
New Jersey deserves the best schools in the nation. New Jersey citizens want that. We also want our property taxes to stay as low as possible, and to feel confident that our taxes are being invested wisely.
Get involved. Make your voice heard. Help bring the public back into our public schools.
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"In New Jersey, any discussion about our children's future must begin
with the quality of our schools and the education provided to our students."
– Senator DiFrancesco
"New Jersey deserves the best
schools in the nation."
– Governor Whitman
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