Safely Reopening Our Schools in NJ: Understanding the Constraints of Fragmentation in the Garden State

I have been trying to learn about the practical implications of reopening our schools in the fall. The stakes are profoundly important and the landscape is fraught with complexity and uncertainty, making this both a bumpy but extremely important learning curve. Much of what I've learned has been from Jersey City Together: from and...

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What Investing in Jersey City Public Schools Looks Like for 2020/21

On Wednesday March 18th, Superintendent Walker proposed a budget that significantly increases local investment in our public schools. The budget includes a $64 million school levy increase, which represents a 47% increase over last year’s levy. Mayor Fulop “blasted” the increase, citing the harm to taxpayers, stating that “They’re going to destroy the taxpayers....

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Jersey City Public Schools 2020/21 Budget Process: Working Timeline & FAQs

As we enter the budget season for Jersey City Public Schools, I wanted to share some upcoming process info – key dates & timeframes in case it’s helpful for parents and advocates. It’s never too late to get involved.  BOE Budget Process – Working Timeline This timeline will be updated as more info is...

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Why the School Tax Levy is Key to Funding JCPS (and why seeking abatement funds is not a concrete solution).

I've heard "can't we go after the abatement money to fund our schools? Rather than increase the school tax levy?" The answer is: no, at least not directly. I wrote about the intersection of abatements & school funding back in 2015; this current moment has been foreseeable for years, unfortunately our elected are only...

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A Closer Look at Jersey City’s School Tax Rate, Part 1: the Public Data

This is the first in a 4-part series about 2018 school tax rates, with a focus on Jersey City. This series will use public data that I have visualized in Tableau here. I was asked recently, “how does Jersey City’s school tax rate compare with other towns and cities in NJ?” We can answer...

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2019/20 *Proposed* Advertised Appropriations (JCPS Spending for 2019/20 School Year)

Check out prior visualizations here that I'm sharing as part of the 2019/20 budget cycle. This visualization shows multiple lenses into the proposed 2019/20 "advertised appropriations" within Jersey City's public schools, as reported by the Jersey City Board of Education here.  This budget has been prepared by the district administration and a finalized version,...

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2018/19 Advertised Appropriations (What JCPS Spends Money On)

This "tree map" shows the 2018/19 appropriations (i.e. expenses) for Jersey City Public Schools. I downloaded the data from the NJ Department of Education website, created a subset of "Appropriations" showing total spending, and then removed subtotals and totals so that only detailed lined items are visualized. Jersey City will lose $27 million in...

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Jersey City’s 2017 School Based Budgets: Learn what’s being funded in your school

This bubble chart shows 2017 actual spending within Jersey City's public schools, as reported by the 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report ("CAFR"); 2017 is the most recent year available for this report. The CAFR is an annual report detailing both qualitative and quantitative information about the district. It is prepared by the district, approved...

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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...

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NJ School Funding Basics: “Adequacy” Budget, School Tax Levy, & the Impact of Inflation (A Case Study of Jersey City)

This article is about Jersey City’s public schools funding crisis. If you’re unfamiliar with this issue, you can read more about it here. I’ve been attempting to de-puzzle some of the tax math that is vexing Jersey City with respect to its public school funding crisis, and have found three factors that deserve public...

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NJ Property Tax Dashboard: Updated for 2018 w/ Jersey City Highlights

Every year, the state of NJ publishes property tax data on the Department of Community Affairs website. I have combined all the available data, for tax years 1998 through the most recently published data for 2018, into one tabulation and visualized it in Tableau.  This dashboard is intended to provide taxpayers with a bird's...

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Taxpayer Guide to Education Spending – Total Spending Per Pupil (#OpenData Visualization)

An explanation of “Total Spending per Pupil”, from the NJ Department of Education: “The Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending (Taxpayers’ Guide) provides the public the opportunity to view and compare all dollars spent on students enrolled in the public school system. In 2010-11, the Department updated this publication (previously the “Comparative Spending Guide”) to...

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NJ School Funding Basics: NJ Department of Education Data & Reports

This is a quick initial post to point taxpayers to an excellent resource for rich, official public data about our public schools here in NJ. The NJ Department of Education (NJ DOE) has, for at least the past 10 years, published a host of different datasets on its “DOE Data & Reports” page. The...

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JCPS Funding Crisis: An Overview

Jersey City Public Schools Funding Crisis Based on the state funding formula, Jersey City Public Schools are currently $100 million under-funded.  Jersey City students, parents, teachers, and staff experience this under-funding everyday. This is a structural deficit and a threat to our school system, our city, and our community. Get the facts, connect in...

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“Jersey City Public Schools are *Structurally* Underfunded”…What does this mean?

This started out as a Facebook post on my CivicParent Facebook page. I’ve turned it into a quick post, for posterity & to help explain some of the financial mechanics of Jersey City’s under-funding crisis. “Jersey City’s public schools under-funding is a structural problem” – what does this mean, exactly? Here’s one way to...

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Jersey City & NJ: Student Group Data from NJ School Performance Reports (A Focus on ELL, At-Risk, and Special Education Students)

The NJ Department of Education publishes annual data relating to certain “student groups”, per school. The table below focuses on three groups that, per state funding law, are entitled to more funding based on the level of need. These groups are: At-risk students, defined as lower income students who qualify for free or reduced...

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NJ Special Education Statistics | #DataViz #OpenData

In this post I’m sharing statewide special education data, with ability to drill into Jersey City special education data specifically, for both Jersey City Public Schools (the public school system) and charter schools attended by Jersey City students. I am sharing the statewide data because it’s informing to see the varying degrees of special...

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Jersey City’s Taxpayer Funded Schools: Enrollment Overview with Focus on Income Diversity

The charts below show enrollment data for Jersey City Public Schools. The Jersey City Public Schools system is the 39-school district under the purview of the Jersey City Board of Education (BOE) and is funded through taxpayer dollars. Public charter schools also receive taxpayer dollars, but they are operated and overseen independently of the...

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Jersey City Public Schools – A Public Good Requiring Public Funding

Jersey City Public Schools is the city’s largest public good, funded through a combination of state, local, and to a lesser degree, federal tax dollars. In 2018/19 the public schools budget was over $600 million; this is larger than the city’s entire budget.  The schools are a public good because they educate the vast...

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Jersey City: Who in City Council & the NJ State Legislature Represents Your School?

To help parents and taxpayers understand (a) what schools are in their neighborhood and/or (b) which elected representatives are tied to which schools, I’ve mapped all 40 Jersey City Public Schools (along with accompanying basic profile information, as listed on the JCPS Website) against 2 map layers: Jersey City Ward (each ward is represented by...

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Jersey City Funding Crisis: Banked Cap, Explained

Jersey City Public Schools: CivicParent Funding FAQs I have been trying to understand how Jersey City Public Schools are funded and am sharing questions I’ve endeavored to answer. As I learn, I’m sharing with the community in the hopes others will also learn and advocate. Where applicable I’ve provided citations and resources so that...

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Updated: Jersey City Abatements from 2016 User Friendly Budget. Mapped by Project Type & Ward.

If you are new to the topic of abatements, I recommend my tax abatement series here including my 2015 article,”Jersey City PILOTs Rob Funding from the School System.“ This post is a refinement of my previous “Mapping Jersey City Abatements By Project Type and Ward” post.  I wanted to update the data, and the map, to...

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JCPS Funding: Why Possible State Aid Cuts = “Major Hardship”

I will be writing about this issue as it unfolds, it’s a big topic that taxpayers should understand.   This is a quick primer on why the Sweeney-Prieto proposal 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...

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Op-Ed Follow-Up: Get the Facts & Figures About Abatements & Public School Funding in Jersey City

I teamed up with Ellen Simon to co-author an op-ed in The Jersey Journal about how Jersey City’s PILOT policy harms our public schools. The article is dense with facts, figures, and assertions. To ensure our assertions are as accessible as possible to the public, I’ve created a landing page to help readers sort through...

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Jersey Journal Op-Ed Highlights PILOT vs. Public Schools Tension in Jersey City

I teamed up with Ellen Simon, a friend, fellow public school parent, and former board trustee of the Jersey City BOE, to co-author an op-ed in the Jersey Journal. The topic: how Jersey City’s PILOT policy “robs” funding from our public schools.  The term “rob” is not ours…to find out who did coin the term, in...

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Civic & Education Awesomeness in Jersey City: PS #5’s “Air Fresheners”

I’m taking my kids out of school early tomorrow so they can go into NYC and witness some stellar role models in action.   These role models are Inventors.  Technologists.  Scientists. Civic Pioneers.  They are the Air Fresheners of PS #5, and tomorrow they will be finalist presenters at the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. The Air Fresheners are Ivonne,...

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Jersey City PILOTs Rob Funding from the School System

A strong public school system is essential bedrock to a healthy community. Yet in Jersey City, our bedrock is threatened by a fiscal policy that is over-reliant on PILOTs.  Here’s the crux of the problem: PILOTs help grow the city, which in turn increases demand for public schools.  But PILOTed residents don’t pay school tax, leaving taxpayers to bear the burden...

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Jersey City, We Have A Problem.

Jersey City has been estimating the cost of its abatements incorrectly for at least eight years, and the impact to conventional taxpayers could amount to millions of dollars. Here’s the problem: Jersey City has been under-counting the number of (a) residents and (b) public school students that will eventually live in each abated building.  The City has been...

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Abatements 501: A Critique of Mayor Fulop’s “Buy Up” Abatement Policy

In my Abatement Series, I’ve discussed the basic premise of abatements, how they are funded, and the impact to conventional taxpayers.  In this post I look at Mayor Fulop’s new tax abatement policy for Jersey City, which includes two notable components: Tiering System: A system of awarding abatements based on geographic location or project type1.  Each...

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What Does 1.88 Students Look Like?

On Wednesday night, the City Council approved an 80-unit abatement in downtown Hamilton Park.  Here are some of the specs on the property: located at 9th & Brunswick in downtown Hamilton Park a community the abatement will extend for 20 years contain 80 units, including 20 3-bedroom units and 35 2-bedroom units 1.88 kids from the building will attend...

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A Concerned Parent Addresses City Council re: Classroom Shortage in Jersey City

The letter below was read into the City Council record on March 26, 2014 by Sarah Welt, a downtown mom with a child who is eligible for public pre-K this coming fall.  Sarah has been instrumental in informing many parents in downtown about the PS 37 annex issue.  Sarah waited five hours to speak during the public...

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Tax Abatements 401: The Transparency Issue

In his 2010 report, “A Programmatic Examination of Tax Abatements,” NJ Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer highlighted numerous weaknesses with abatements.  One issue he touched upon was transparency.  He stated, “Information concerning abatement…is not published in a transparent manner or centralized location, making it difficult to impossible for the public to compare, calculate the effect...

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JCPS Demographic Study: Pertinent Facts re: Classroom Space

A Jersey City parent who reviewed the Board of Education’s (BOE) two demographic studies asked that I share pertinent information from the studies as it relates to the pre-K facility issue.  If you’re unfamiliar with that issue, this article in the Jersey City Independent provides background information.  The Jersey City Public Schools (JCPS) has...

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Let’s Get Civic

The genesis of CivicParent.org…. I live in Jersey City and on November 14, 2013 I learned that Mayor Fulop’s first abatement – the 3 towers planned for Journal Square – would not include dedicated funding for Jersey City public schools.  I also learned that five City Council members, all of whom were Fulop-endorsed candidates,...

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