Education in Jersey City
How schools are funded in nj
our kids are worth the fight
taking action: march 7, 2022
our advocacy: a timeline
Education Team action priorities for 2022:
Our priorities, as always, were informed by listening. We launched a listening campaign in Fall 2021 and engaged in action in March on all of our priorities. In October of 2022, we held an action on our water advocacy; for more information on that see the page on our water advocacy.
We want excellent public schools for all students, and cannot afford to go backward.
At our public action on March 7, 2022, we asked public officials to prioritize our city’s children in this year’s school budget and sustainably into the future. The students of our district have grown up with years of chronic underfunding followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our organizing work always begins with listening. We have listened to thousands of parents and caregivers throughout the district since 2018, and one resounding theme is that we need sufficient, qualified, full-time staff to ensure smaller class sizes, more and better mental health and wraparound support, and better morning and aftercare services.
As we have long advocated, our city’s children deserve a fulsome investment from our community in the form of:
Fully staffed classrooms that support smaller class sizes
Sufficient wraparound support in the form of CITs, mental health staff, and more in every school,
Critical capital repairs in all schools including working water fountains with drinkable water by the end of 2022
A transparent reporting of the needs in each school and how those needs are being met so that public stakeholders - namely parents, caregivers, staff, and taxpayers - can understand the investments.
These investments are not possible absent a fully funded budget with sustainable funding year on year.
We realize that there are three distinct areas of funding available to the district this year:
$96 million of federal COVID-19 pandemic aid which will expire within the next two years. We believe these monies should be used to fund capital expenses like building repairs, technology investment, learning loss interventions, and other one-time costs.
State aid, which is reduced by $68 million for the 2022-23 school year
The local school levy, which must be the primary source of funding the schools now and each year into the future.
Our children need their schools to be places where they can learn, grow, and flourish. This requires that the schools be fully funded. The graduating class of 2021 in Jersey City never experienced full funding in the entire time that they were in school. Over the last two years due to our advocacy work, the district has turned this around; we cannot go back. Our children deserve nothing less.
It is time for Jersey City Public Schools to provide the excellent education that our children deserve.
What is full funding & why have we been fighting for it?
The state of New Jersey adopted a formula in 2008 to determine how much each school district needs to provide a thorough and efficient education to the children enrolled in the district. The formula is considered by experts on school finance to be a very good estimate of what our children need.
Full funding ensures our district will have the teachers, teacher's aides, counselors, nurses, academic coaches, janitors, and administrators that the district needs. It pays for programs -- summer school, after school,
enrichment, and more. It often pays for the upkeep of buildings, regular maintenance, cleanliness, and more.
From 2008 to 2018 the gap between what the state of New Jersey says our kids need and what they actually receive grew steadily. It took our advocacy to start to turn this around. Read the Education Law Center's report about funding in Jersey City.
Jersey City's deserve a world class education every year. But -- in the midst (and aftermath) of a global pandemic -- our district will need the resources to take action to address the inequities in the system. A fully funded budget is an important, first step.
Because of our work in recent years, the 2021-22 school year will be the first time in more than a decade that the Jersey City Public Schools have a fully-funded budget (as defined by the state). We will have work to do to ensure it stays that way. But we must also make sure resources are actually used well and allocated to address long-standing needs.
How has Jersey City Together made progress?
In 2017, parent & caregiver leaders with Jersey City Together created an education team to address issues they were seeing in the schools.
In the 2017-2018 school year, we pressed for and won a $5.3 million investment in Jersey City Public Schools by asking the Board of Education to use its "banked cap" for that year.
In 2018-2019, we launched a campaign to press for leadership around school funding & a set of concrete investments by the Jersey City School Board. We saw a greater funding increase at the local level (~$12 million) but not enough to respond to the growing need in the district. (During this year, Jersey City Together leaders wrote an OpEd focused on continued funding needs and what the City Council could do in the short term.)
In 2019-2020, we began our work in January, pressing for a $50 million increase in local funding. At the end of the budget cycle, the Jersey City Board of Education overcame its misgivings and unanimously approved a $53 million local funding increase. This was the most significant change in underfunding in more than a decade.
In 2020-2021, we pressed for a fully funded budget. This was achieved last year with a combination of local funding increases & federal monies. Now, our work continues to ensure this money is well spent and that full funding is maintained in the face of expected state funding cuts.
Advocacy during remote learning and the pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, everything about how school worked changed in March 2020. The Education Team continued to listen to students, families, and other school stakeholders, and to reach out through our churches and other nonprofit organizations to bring more families into our work.
As part of this effort we did a survey of Jersey City parents with questions in English, Spanish and Arabic (click here to see findings we disseminated). We received 345 survey responses from a wide sample of Jersey City parents, representing 70 preschoolers, 239 primary students and 34 secondary students. The following three themes emerged from analysis and informed our advocacy:
Technology, Internet Connection, Tech Support. More than 25% of survey responses indicated that students did not have their own device to use for classwork. Our takeaway was we needed our students to each have a device, to be able to connect, and to feel supported in connecting from home, and we advocated for this with the district.
Regular virtual meetings - appropriately sized - are key. Parents (and students) responded positively to regular, consistent, smaller-group meetings with teachers; we advocated for this for the fall of 2020. Kids miss their teachers and their classmates, and when given a chance to connect, it helped not only academically but also socially and emotionally. The kids must feel like they can make a connection which means, now more than ever, class size matters.
Parents are concerned for the social and emotional health of their children. 78% of survey respondents said their child did not have access to a counselor. The current pandemic, resulting isolation, and feeling of disconnectedness is very real, with sadness being the most frequently reported student emotion. Our takeaway was that we needed to fight for sufficient social and emotional support. If we don't meet our children's physical and emotional needs, their academics will suffer.
If you are interested in getting involved in our work for the 2024-25 school year, sign up by emailing email@example.com.