Jersey City Together parents, students urge council to allocate $16M to BOE budget

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Parents and students affiliated with advocacy group Jersey City Together urged the city council to allocate $16 million to the board of education’s budget as school funding questions continue.

“I love our school and our teachers. I love that P.S. 6 teaches espanol, Spanish, and all the other classes too. I love all the things all our teachers do for us. Please don’t fire our music teacher or any of our other teachers,” Ella Padget-Harrington, a student at Public School No.6, said during the public portion at last night’s meeting.

“One of the lights outside my classroom keeps flashing on and off … I would like air conditioning in my classroom when it gets hot.”

Council President Rolando Lavarro suspended the council’s agenda about an hour-and-a-half or so into the meeting so that children signed up to speak could approach the podium at a reasonable hour.

The group of at least 75 students and parents was organized by Jersey City Together, who let many chants of “fund our schools!” inside the council chambers before the meeting began.

Brigid D’Souza said in an interview that the group came up with the $16 million figure based on public documents released by the board of education, as well as to push back against the possibility of selling the BOE’s central office on Claremont Avenue.

The council took no formal action on their budget, which hasn’t been introduced yet this year, but D’Souza remained optimistic about the final outcome.

“They’ve expressed to us, Jersey City Together, that they care about the schools, they’re committed to the schools. We haven’t heard any concrete specifics around the numbers, which is why it’s really important to push tonight.”

At the end of May, the BOE heard much frustration from the council after no one from the district attended a council hearing that was set just to discuss school funding.

Many trustees defended their actions at their subsequent board meeting, explaining that they were simply following the advice of counsel.

Additionally, earlier this month, Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas said that despite a $120 million budget shortfall, the district had addressed the issue, though 150 to 200 layoffs were still possible after an internal audit was performed.

While she did not single anyone out, D’Souza said it was clear that the school funding issue is far from over given statistical projections for the upcoming 2019-2020 scholastic year.

“We don’t look at it in the rearview if they’re selling central office as a way to mitigate budget cuts for next year. We don’t look at it as in the rearview given that we still have teachers who are still holding pink slips and we’re looking at class sizes that might go up further still.”

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