Jersey City Public Schools facing $71M cut in state aid: ‘It feels almost inhumane’

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The Jersey City Public Schools are facing a massive $71,153,359 cut in state aid for the next scholastic year, prompting Board of Education President Mussab Ali to say “it feels almost inhumane.”

Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Franklin Walker. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“I think these cuts are unconstitutional and I think the state is abdicating their responsibility to fund the schools,” Ali said over the phone minutes ago.

“The fact that we’re getting cut $71 million in the middle of a pandemic, we were hoping for no cuts since this is such a difficult scenario for each and every district, but obviously Trenton and Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t feel that way … it feels almost inhumane. I don’t know how that can be described as progressive or a strong step in terms of solving school funding or financing in New Jersey.”

Last year, when the JCPS saw their state aid funding reduced by $55,318,323, they approved ultimately approved a $736 million budget with a 39 percent school tax levy hike.

“There’s limitations on what’s possible when you get cut $71 million from the state. People of Jersey City need to understand, there’s so little of what can you do. We’re going to do our best, but at this point there’s very little we can do. I think the state has let us know we aren’t going to support our district,” Ali continued.

Despite getting slashed nearly 22 percent from 2020 ($324,393,336 vs. $253,239,997), the board president said “strong, strategic decisions” to date should prevent the tax levy from going up higher than what it was last year.

In 2018, Murphy signed a state aid reform bill, following approval from the legislature, to redistribute how public school districts receive aid from Trenton.

While the new formula is supposed to look out for previously underfunded districts, while slowly decreasing aid to overfunded schools, Jersey City hasn’t had much luck so far.

Still, they are pursuing all avenues to try to recoup funding, filing suit against the state alleging the JCPS will lose out on $795 million in aid by 2024.

The Weehawken and Hoboken Schools Districts are again taking losses this year as well, down 10.42 percent and 4.86 percent, respectively.

With the exception of Harrison, who broke even from last year’s state allocation of $26,284,533, every other Hudson County school district saw a state funding increase.

The biggest winner was again Secaucus, who went up 23.63 percent, with Guttenberg, Kearny, and Bayonne all seeing state aid increases of at least 16 percent.