JCT Education Team
From 2017: Why Possible State Aid Cuts to Jersey City = “Major Hardship”
This is a quick primer on why the Sweeney-Prieto proposal (in the NJ state legislature) to cut $8.5 million in state aid from Jersey City Public Schools would, to use Superintendent Dr. Lyles term, cause a “major hardship” for the district. The proposed cuts are for state’s coming fiscal year (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018). Read the 2017 story here and a March 2022 post-script on state aid cuts here.
Education Team Invites Parents & Stakeholders to Share Concerns About Their Schools
Jersey City Together’s Youth & Education Team has engaged more than 200 parents at 5 elementary schools across the district in the last few weeks. We are listening for common ground across schools in every neighborhood of the city. Leaders are now conducting research meetings. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we prepare for next steps.
Banked Cap, Explained (A demystifier on Civic Parent)
Members of the JCT Education team learned about “banked cap” primarily through research with the Education Law Center. On April 20, 2018, we engaged in a “research meeting,” which is a key tool in organizing. Research meetings do not have any desired outcome other than to learn. Going into the meeting, our team had no awareness of what banked cap was or that it was an allowable local funding source for the school budget that was being determined by the Board of Education in Spring 2018. Neither the Superintendent nor the Board of Education had highlighted the banked cap during the regular budget process; we therefore saw an opportunity to teach what banked cap was, and compel the BOE to act on this opportunity to invest in the local school levy and fund the public schools. The win: $5.3 million added to the budget.
JCT Education Team Advocates for $5.3M in “Banked Cap” for 2018/19 Budget
“On May 1st, Jersey City Together held a press conference to demand the Jersey City Board of Education use its full “banked cap” to fund our schools. This would add $5.3 million to the schools’ budget at a time when they are $100 million underfunded every year ($3,250 per student). On May 7th, the Jersey City Board of Education passed their 2018-2019 budget including the full banked cap as part of it. They credited Jersey City Together’s research & organizing with making this happen and with bringing the “banked cap” to their attention.”
In face of state school aid cuts, payroll tax is proposed to pay for Jersey City’s public schools
The scope of the state aid cuts was clear in spring 2018; in response, State Senator Cunningham proposed a payroll tax to help fill the gap left by state aid withdrawal. “The plan, which was introduced in the state Legislature on Monday, comes amid rising panic locally that the school district may lose a significant amount of state financial aid and grumbling statewide about the amount of state funding Jersey City schools receive. The district’s $660 million budget is funded with $414 million in state aid while Jersey City taxpayers kick in $124 million.”
Learn more here.
Jersey City payroll tax clears hurdle amid objections
Dozens of parents, teachers and staff, and community advocates spoke at a City Council meeting to support passage of the payroll tax to help fund the school. Click here to learn more.
550+ Leaders Gather for Jersey City Together Action; Education on Agenda
Jersey City Faces $27 Million State Aid Cut for 2019/20 School Year
As expected, in March 2019 Governor Murphy released his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2019/20 budget for NJ and it included a re-allocation of state education aid away from Jersey City. The impact to Jersey City was both expected and sobering: a $27 million cut in “Adjustment Aid”, a type of excess state aid that Jersey City has been receiving for the last 10 years to make up for anemically low local revenues.
I wrote about these expected cuts in previous posts here.
I wrote a bit about the school tax levy in this post earlier today.
I recently updated my “Property Tax Dashboard” to include 2018 data here; this shows the school tax levy for every city in NJ, thus gives a sense of how much (or how little) a town or city is supporting its public schools with local property taxes.
Jersey City Facing $27 Million State Aid Cut for 2019/20 School Year
Governor Murphy released his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2019/20 budget for NJ and this week, and it included a re-allocation of state education aid. The impact to Jersey City was both expected and gut-wrenchingly sobering: a $27 million cut in “Adjustment Aid”, a type of excess state aid that Jersey City has been receiving for the last 10 years to make up for anemically low local revenues. Learn more here.
Jersey City Together teaches funding crisis in front of 200+ residents & taxpayers
In March 2019, Jersey City Together advocates taught the funding crisis at First Wesleyan Church in front of 210+ parent, student, and faith leaders. Interim Superintendent Franklin Walker & School Board President Sudhan Thomas were also present. Parents and students shared their concerns about the conditions of our schools and the impact of underfunding that is impacting students today. We taught the scale of the underfunding crisis in our schools — $100 million underfunded today, $150 million more about to be lost, and potentially a $120 million deficit in next year’s budget. Watch the event here. The team named Mayor Fulop’s commitment from December 2018 to help fund the schools.
The Jersey City BOE’s “10% Tax Levy Hike” Isn’t Enough & Doesn’t Value Our Kids or JCPS
“Jersey City’s Board of Education is emphasizing a “10%” school tax levy increase as if that’s a big jump. Except 10% isn’t a big dollar-for-dollar jump, when you look at the entire picture. In actuality, 10% is way too small, given the fiscal hole we’re in as a district. A simple example can illustrate how these percentages are gamed in talking points to make it look like the BOE is making a huge lift, when in fact it’s not doing nearly enough.”
Hundreds protest budget cuts, planned teacher layoffs at Jersey City schools
As a direct result to the underfunded school levy passed by the Board of Education, teacher layoffs ensued. While Jersey City Together advocates had been warning of just such an outcome, many in community were caught by surprise, resulting in a fierce reaction. “More than 300 parents, teachers and students crowded inside School 26 on Monday night to demand Jersey City school board members find a way to avoid massive cuts to school staffing and educational programs.” Read more here.
City Council Can Allocate Surplus Funds to the Public Schools.
In the face of budget cuts and proposed teacher layoffs, the JCT Education team sought ways to fund through any means possible. Research found one final possible, albeit atypical, route: ask the City Council to share city monies to avoid teacher layoffs. The team saw the BOE’s failure to fund as a missed opportunity, but the City Council as a possible pathway to correcting course. Learn more here.
No way to run a world-class school district | Opinion
Jersey City Together leaders Brigid D’Souza, Dr. Jyl Josephson, & Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry Sr wrote an op-ed criticizing the failure to fund the schools with the local school levy. “Over the last nine months, Jersey City Together leaders have listened to hundreds of parents, teachers, and students about the issues facing our schools. The stories we heard – increasing class sizes, program cuts, non-compliance for students with special needs, lack of water – are mostly stories of underfunding.” Read more here.
June 26th: Tell the Jersey City City Council to #FundOurSchools
Teacher layoffs were a devastating setback, but JCT’s Education team saw the layoffs as an opportunity to invite others into the advocacy through continued education and new advocacy pathways forward. By inviting those who were just learning about the funding crisis into the fight, we were building a base of support for the long-term. We worked to press the City Council to put $16 million towards the schools budget. Our research showed that this would help prevent unnecessary layoffs, stop the sale of Central Office, and help the JC BOE invest more in our students. Learn more here.
City Council decides not to fund Jersey City Public Schools for 2019-2020
“After a series of actions at Jersey City Municipal Council meetings led by Jersey City Together & parent leaders, including one with more than 100+ parents, the Jersey City Municipal Council decided not to include funding for Jersey City Public Schools as part of their budget.” Learn more here.
Jersey City Together pushes for $50 million added to the school district’s budget
Seeing the state aid cuts in context, JC Together’s education team pushed to avoid layoffs and invest in the schools amidst another year of state aid cuts. From the news article: “As the Jersey City Board of Education works to fill a $150 million budget gap, a local advocacy group is urging the district to increase it’s spending, not cut it.”
Learn more here.
In face of more state aid cuts, Jersey City Together gears up to avoid more layoffs and proactively fund the schools
JCT education team members planned a proactive, organized effort in 2020, in anticipation of more state aid cuts that we knew would be released in March 2020 (when state aid numbers are released by the governor’s office), This post illustrates a look ahead at the known budget season and shows what advocates had their eyes on: the facts, the likely movement of state aid and needed school levy push, and a key message for all interested stakeholders: It’s never too late to get involved.
Jersey City Together supports passage of budget for 2020-2021 that increases school levy, avoids staff layoffs, as district faces impact of COVID-19
Transiting entirely to Zoom-based advocacy, the Jersey City Together education team continued to push for a $50 million school levy investment that would avert staff layoffs in the face of devastating state aid cuts enacted per the “S2” legislation.
The local news reported, “The final vote on the 2020-21 budget came less than a week after several members of the BOE raised concerns about increasing the school tax level by tens of millions of dollars at a time when COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the local and national economies…[Superintendent] Walker said the board had time to reflect on some of the issues the district will face next year, specifically related to how the schools will operate in a world altered by COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic arrived as the district was facing down an estimated $150 million budget shortfall, due in large part to the state funding change that will cut an additional $55 million from the schools next year.”
Learn more here.
To help community understand school investment, JCT Education team creates school tax calculator
The Education team created a school tax expense calculator to help Jersey City residents understand the personal investment for a $50 million increase to the school levy. The team’s aim was to the put the power of understanding property taxes into taxpayers’ hands. This tool allows a user to input the assessed value of a home and then view the computed, personalized estimate for the change in monthly and annual school tax. Learn more here.
Jersey City Together hosts town hall with Superintendent Franklin Walker as school reopens amidst ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
Jersey City Together’s Education team hosted a zoom-based conversation with Jersey City Superintendent Franklin Walker about the opening of the 2020 school year and what to expect as school remained remote and students isolated. The town hall was an hour in length, moderated by two JCT leaders, attended live by hundreds in community, and viewed 3,o00+ times on Facebook Live. The town hall is viewable here.
Jersey City Together pushes for clean water in all district schools
Organizing can require pressuring collaboration among multiple government agencies to effectuate needed change. The water advocacy is a great example, as the Board of Education (BOE) and Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) need constant pressure to act. Learn more about “Phase II” work on water fountain upgrades in JCPS, which would include Public Schools 4, 25, 38, and 39.
JC Together Education team advocates for resources amidst COVID-19 pandemic
Jersey City Together’s Education Team has been advocating for full and fair funding of our schools for the past 4 years, and this year there is a concerted effort to continue this work and also lift up – with particular concern in this moment of isolation & pandemic – the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). The JCT Education Team includes social workers, youth advocates, education advocates, and parents who are all pitching in.
In January 2021, the team hosted ongoing listening sessions to better understand concerns in community and help lift them up to district leadership. Learn more about the efforts to listen and advocate here.
Jersey City Together supports passage of $814.1 million budget for 2021-22 school year and investments in teachers, staff as district grapples with impact of COVID-19 pandemic
For another year, Jersey City Together supported the passage of a “fully funded budget” in the face of devastating state aid cuts that have been in motion since 2018.
The local news reported…”With a 6-3 vote the Jersey City Board of Education has adopted its final $814.1 million budget for the 2021-2022 academic year…According to Superintendent of the Jersey City Public School District Franklin Walker, this year the district lost about $152 million in state aid and over the next three years the district is projected to lose another $250 million…“Our focus is how to best meet the needs of the children,” said Walker. “The district still lacks revenue and budget stability, which adds fiscal uncertainty when added to the pandemic impact and that 80 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged. Our only option to secure the necessary funding to submit a balanced budget that meets the students’ needs is a tax levy.””
Learn more here.
JC Together presses for action, more progress on clean water fountains at MUA meeting
JC Together’s education team pressed for more urgent action by hosting an action at the MUA in Greenville. It also launched an email campaign to press invite others into the advocacy and help educate newcomers to the advocacy.
Jersey City Together demands water remediation by end of 2022
JC Together’s education team demanded that the water remediation project to rid the schools’ drinking water of lead be completed by the end of 2021. The city MUA, however, said it was not possible until late 2022. This advocacy sheds light on the need for proactively demanding solutions and commitments from government authorities. Learn more here.
Education team presses for commitments from Dr. Fernandez, BOE President Lyons
In March 2022, the Jersey City Education team hosted an action and pressed for commitments around four key areas in the coming year: (1) full staffing including mental health supports, (2) press for urgent solutions in collaboration with the MUA to remediate the water fountains in all schools, (3) increased transparency and communications, and (4) a fully funded budget to support it all. See the live-streamed action here. The team also taught where the city was with respect to the funding crisis unfolding under the “S2” law, which has been enacting phased cuts in state aid since 2018.
Jersey City Together supports passage of fully funded budget for 2022-23 school year
Jersey City Together’s education team supported the passage of a fully funded budget in the face of continued state aid cuts. Absent the local school levy investment, the schools could have faced layoffs in the face of continued retractions of state aid. Between 2018 and 2022, the city has lost $200+ million in state aid. Learn more here.
Jersey City Together helps advocate for return of $89 million in state aid for 2022-23 school year
From Summer 2021 through Summer 2022, Jersey City Together’s Education team advocated with the Education Law Center to ensure that state aid to JCPS could not be cut due to federal requirements around COVID-19 aid. This advocacy resulted in the return of $89 million in state aid, received in September 2022. Learn more here.