It took nearly 30 years, but Jersey City is nearing the end of state control over its school district – just as it is being hit with an $8.4 million funding cut.
The final step to regaining local control is likely to occur this year, according to Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington at today’s State Board of Education meeting.
In 1989, Jersey City became the first school district in the state to have their operations taken over by state government. The move was intended to be temporary, but the state’s inability to return control for 28 years is evidence that it was a failed experiment that was then transmitted to other large, urban districts.
Adding insult to injury is the state’s decision to strip more than $8 million in funding from Jersey City’s public schools just as local control is being returned to the community.
“NJEA always has been, and always will be, fierce advocates for local control and full funding for public schools,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer. “Our members and the stakeholders in the communities they serve are the experts on what students need and how best to deliver it. The state’s decision to handicap Jersey City just at the moment they are finally resuming control over their district is more evidence that the state does not understand – or perhaps does not wish to play – its intended role: to fully fund education and to leave educational decisions in the hands of the local stakeholders.”
“Our members have done a phenomenal job under extremely difficult circumstances,” said NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan. “Their commitment to their students and to the residents of Jersey City has never wavered, despite the challenges that have been thrown in their way. It makes no sense to reward their dedication, professionalism, and expertise with a funding cut just as the district resumes control.”
“For 30 years, the state thought they could run the Jersey City School District better than the experts on the ground: parents, school employees, and taxpayers,” said NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller. “And now that they are finally correcting that error, the state is trying to set the district up for failure with a multi-million dollar funding cut. Jersey City’s students deserve much better.”