JCEA-backed Jersey City BOE slate talks payroll tax, local control, sports cuts and more

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“Education Matters,” the three-person Jersey City Board of Education slate backed by the local teachers’ union, sat down with HCV to discuss the payroll tax, maintaining local control, middle school sports cuts, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles and much more. 

“As a team, we definitely support the payroll tax because it’s an important initiative that we need to have in our city, but again, something everyone has to remember is that this is not something that is in our hands, right? That’s not something that we get to vote on,” said BOE Trustee Mussab Ali.

” … We really need to come up with more creative ways to have more public-private partnerships, to reach out to the businesses in our city and say ‘listen, how can you contribute to our schools?'”

Ali also suggested that when the city approves payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements, officials should be pushing developers to contribute more incentives for the Jersey City Public Schools.

After months of chatter on the subject, the Jersey City Council will be voting on the first reading of the payroll tax as an initiative to help fund the JCPS: the 1 percent tax would apply to any non-government business entities that have a payroll exceeding $2,500 in any quarter.

On a related topic, inevitable budget cuts have arisen in the district, recently leading to middle school sports being eliminated, to the dismay of many parents, coaches and student-athletes alike.

BOE candidate Joan Terrell-Paige said situations like this one are key examples of when the district and the city need to think outside the box for a solution to materialize.

“One of the things that was cut was golfing … we have two golf courses here in the city. I would hope that each one of them would want to take our students and start them learning that game, the things involved in golfing, it’s a way to open up a partnership with the businesses that are in this city,” she explained.

“We’re having that summit on November the 13th with a lot of corporations, it’s gonna be on the waterfront, the governor’s going to be there, and it’s a good place for the superintendent to be to try and sell the schools.”

In an interview with the “GAS” BOE team last week, the only full slate challenging Education Matters, they said that they would hypothetically support a new contract for Lyles (her contract isn’t up until 2020) since PARCC scores have recently gone up.

While all three members of the opposition slate disagreed, BOE Trustee Marilyn Roman was perhaps the most vocal on the subject.

“First and foremost, the [new] scores are measuring apples and oranges. If you look at the scores, it says 2015 – let’s just take third grade – and they give you the score. And then it goes directly to 2018 and they give you the third grade score: those are not the same children,” she began.

“The children who were in third grade in 2015 are now sixth graders. So we are not measuring the same children and that’s not a valid way. I’ve asked the superintendent, and she’s supposed to be giving me the scores that are year upon year so we can actually measure all of the children.”

Roman also noted that there is an evaluation system in place in the JCPS that goes beyond just standardized test scores.

On the subject of local control, Ali said that it’s crucial to evaluate and eliminate programs that aren’t working when and where it is necessary, scaling back lucrative contracts for district consultants and adding more service-learning programs for students.

All in all, Roman, who was an educator for 43 years, said that this year’s incarnation of the Education Matters slate has the perfect blend of experience and new energy for the board.

“I know the district very, very well and I know what has to be done, I’ve done some of it. I’ve asked for many changes and sometimes they actually do them,” she recalled.

“They need space downtown, they need recommendations for that, and I’m looking to get more high school children into programs so when they come out of high school to get a job or do other things but need a part-time job, they will have skills.”

Like the GAS team, two current members of the BOE, Vice President Lorenzo Richardson and Trustee Gerald Lyons, are backing their candidacy, while recently retired veteran board member Angel Valentin is backing his old colleagues – Ali and Roman.

That duo also has the support of another long serving former trustee, Sue Mack.

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