JCEA school funding discussion sees NJEA panelist target Christie, Sweeney

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The Jersey City Education Association (JCEA) hosted a panel discussion on school funding issues, with one panelist criticizing Gov. Chris Christie (R) for prioritizing “corporate subsidies to businesses” over public schools.

“We were and remain strongly opposed to the Senate president’s proposal. And we are strongly opposed to that proposal for, there’s a lot of different reasons but the main reason is that our school funding formula is underfunded,” stated NJEA Government Relations staffer Osomo Thomas.

Thomas explained that a community that is slated for an influx of aid from another community who has not been utilizing it, and that influx is the 2 percent tax cap over the budget – which will reduce property taxes.

However, for the community receiving aid, it will be advantageous the first year, but in the second year, that 2 percent cap will be based on a smaller school budget, and there still be problems with funding.

The NJEA has had an icy relationship with state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), at one point considered a leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate, after he called for state and federal law enforcement to investigate union for “bribery” and “extortion.”

Sweeney’s remarks came in August after he failed to post pension legislation in the state Senate, prompting unions such as the NJEA to state they would be withholding campaign contributions until the Senate passed the legislation.

Jersey City Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden asked how payments from pilots can aid the school funding given there is a constant 2% cap.

Thomas explained that if there is payment coming from PILOTS, the 2 percent cap is on a school district’s overall budget.

If and when when the PILOT expires and comes off line, that is revenue that the city can use to fund the school.

This means it wouldn’t really limit what the city can spend on itself or the school, it would only decrease the tax rate.

Thomas concluded, “Schools has not been priority for this governor. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

“The school funding issues isn’t because there isn’t enough revenue, it’s because our governor has different priorities.”

Also on the panel were Education Law Center’s Monete Johnson, Jersey City Public Schools parent/blogger Brigid D’Souza, also known as Civic Parent, and economist Omar Qadeer.