Jersey City BOE could recoup as much as $126M from state aid cuts following directive from U.S. DOE

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The Jersey City Board of Education could recoup as much as $126,434,477 from state aid cuts following a directive from the U.S. Department of Education that cites this must be be done in order to comply with the American Rescue Plan.

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By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“This directive from the federal government should come as no surprise. It was clear that the aid cuts in the FY22 Budget put New Jersey out of compliance with the ARP ESSER, which specifically prohibits states from reducing state aid to high poverty school districts,” Education Law Center Research Director Danielle Farrie said in a statement.

In June, Jersey City Together wrote to the New Jersey Senate Budget/Appropriations and Assembly Budget Committees indicating that the “maintenance of equity” provision of the American Rescue Plan states that “high need” districts will not see state funding reduced, as HCV first reported.

The state announced $71,153,359 in cuts to the district back in February. JCT and the ELC subsequently filed complaints with the US DOE.

In a November 24th letter from the US DOE, they affirmed that the state cuts indeed violated the maintenance of equity provision in the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ARP ESSER).

“The USED has vindicated the advocacy of Jersey City Together and ELC to enforce Maintenance of Equity” said Brigid D’Souza and Dr. Jyl Josephson, parent leaders with JCT.

“The restoration of millions in state aid will be crucial for high poverty districts across the state, including Jersey City, to invest over the next two years in their students and recover from the pandemic.”

If the cuts are not restored, the state would risk losing roughly $2.8 billion in federal funding.

The state aid cuts were dictated by Senate Bill 2 (S2), a change to New Jersey’s school funding formula enacted in 2018, phasing-out “adjustment aid,” a category of state transition aid.

Jersey City Board of Education President Mussab Ali said that this change has been known to be “unconstitutional,” as the district’s ongoing lawsuit against the state contends, and called it a big win for the city.

“The Jersey City Board of Education has known that S2 has been unconstitutional since it was first legislated. This is a huge sigh of relief for residents across Jersey City … We encourage the governor to act swiftly to restore funding to the Jersey City Public Schools,” he said.

The US DOE’s decision would also halt the estimated $100 million in cuts for the JCPS scheduled for next year.

On Twitter, Mayor Steven Fulop also applauded the outcome.

“Big news for Jersey City and thank you to the Education Law Center,” he tweeted.

The estimates provided by the ELC indicate that over 80 New Jersey school districts, including a few charter schools, are owed a cumulative $172,589,052.

The number for the Jersey City BOE is listed at $126,434,477, though it is not immediately clear if they will recoup that full amount since taxes were raised in the most recent $814 million budget.

A spokesman from the New Jersey Department of Education did not immediately return an email seeking comment this afternoon.