TAKE ACTION FOR OUR SCHOOLS
The Jersey City Board of Education will vote on the 2022/23 schools budget on March 21st.
Share why supporting the schools is important to you.
This letter was created by the Jersey City Together Education Team. I am hosting the letter on CivicParent to support the advocacy. To learn more about Jersey City Together's advocacy and ongoing work (and how you can plug in), click here.
Take Action for Jersey City Public Schools in 2022Read or Edit the Petition
K-12 Operating Budget
2022 State Aid Cut
What is Jersey City's school funding crisis?
In 2018, the state of NJ passed "S2," a law that began withdrawing excess education aid from Jersey City Public Schools. The state's mandate: quadruple the levy within the next 5-7 years. In 2018, Jersey City's school tax levy was only $124 million; by 2021 it had grown to $278 million.
I created the slide below as part of a brief education talk that was part of Jersey City Together's March 7th action around school commitments from Acting Superintendent Norma Fernandez and BOE President Gerald Lyons. The facts are clear: we can either fund our schools more locally or we can face drastic layoffs. If we want full staffing, we must have a full school levy.
Key issues in 2022
We need to fully fund but we also need more transparency into how the investment is being managed, to ensure that district administration is funding to children's needs..
In NJ, school funding should follow the child
In 2008, NJ adopted a new school funding formula called "SFRA" or the "School Funding Reform Act." This formula drives our public schools budget.
SFRA bases "adequacy" on a weighted-average student formula, whereupon students are given higher "weights" depending on higher levels of need (and the need is supposed to drive the funding). General education students are given a base-weight. But then three main categories of students with greater levels of need are lifted up by SFRA: At-Risk (Lower Income), English Language Learners, and Special Education. Each school district's budget is "built up" by applying a weighted-average-student formula to the student population in that district. This "built-up" budget is termed the district's "adequacy budget". Learn more about weighted enrollment and its relevance to school funding here.
Jersey City Public Schools in 2022
Jersey City Public Schools fully funded itself for the first time in 2021/22, as the district emerged from pandemic. Much work remains to make up for years of chronic budget cuts and two years of pandemic. Here are some examples:
Won't a school levy hike mean more taxes overall?
Not necessarily. A school tax levy hike could be mitigated by a few factors, including cuts to city spending.
We saw this exact scenario play out in 2021, when the school board increased the school tax levy but the mayor and city council lowered the city levy and it was a "wash" overall for taxpayers, who didn't have an overall (county + city + schools) tax increase. Check out the article below for an overview of how the school board action caused the city to react with a lower city tax.