LETTER: Jersey City should be investing more into their schools, not the county or SciTech Scity


In a letter to the editor, McNair Academic High School Athletic Director Kristen Zadroga-Hart explains why she feels the city should be investing more into their public schools, not the county or SciTech Scity.

Photo courtesy of the City of Jersey City.

Dear Editor,

Show me a city’s budget and I’ll show you the administration’s priorities.

Mayor Fulop and his city council have repeatedly and systematically underfunded our public schools which has put our students at a disadvantage and directly caused the crisis we now face as a district.

You will see tweets and campaign literature that brag about how the city has not raised taxes, but that is disingenuous at best, a flat out lie at worst. Cities have a responsibility to fund their public schools. There is no disputing that.

To avoid the political backlash of raising taxes, Mayor Fulop has put the board of education and Superintendent Walker in the impossible position of once again having to choose between raising the local school tax to fund our schools, or fire teachers, double class sizes and cut programs for our students.

In a year when our students, our teachers and our parents have overcome near impossible circumstances, now is not the time for political gamesmanship.

With his usual fanfare and flurry of press releases, Mayor Fulop announced the implementation of the payroll tax that was supposed to provide much needed funds for our schools. In typical fashion, this process was all bark and very little bite.

The city promised an $86 million contribution to the district, has only certified $56 million dollars of that, and has yet to distribute a single dime of those funds to our schools.

In what would appear to be a lack of oversight by the city as it pertains to the payroll tax, multiple corporations have failed to pay their obligated contributions.

Last week, to add insult to injury, the city had the nerve to ask the board of education to support an effort that would waive the interest fees on those arrears.

If you or I make a late payment to the city, our late fees do not get pushed under the rug, why should theirs? The district is already trying to do more with less, and this is just another instance of the city’s failure to meet its obligation to our children.

The school tax isn’t the only instance of how City Hall has failed our students.

Tax abatements are not new to Jersey City, but the impact they have on our schools is far-reaching, swelling and at a point where they are denying our students educational opportunities.

At this point, we all know that abatements allow developers to make payments directly to the city, bypassing their responsibility to contribute any money to our schools.

The last I checked, Jersey City has $13 billion worth of real estate that contributes $0 to our schools. How is this good government?

People who are living in luxury high rises are sending their children to our public schools on the backs of hardworking men and women struggling to get by.

On next week’s city council agenda, Mayor Fulop is asking the council to approve payments to supplement a new school being built as part of the Liberty Science Center SciScity.

The resolution agrees to pay Hudson County $2 million dollars a year over the next 30 years, with an annual increase of 2% per year for a total of over $78 million over the course of the agreement.

That, compounded by the fact that the city sold the land, worth millions of dollars, for $10 through the politically appointed Redevelopment Agency and the school’s board of trustees is riddled with political donors makes me question every step of this deal.

Why are we paying the county to build and run a school that will house students from outside of Jersey City on top of the money we already pay from our County taxes? Why not invest that money in our own Jersey City Public School students?

Why not support Superintendent Walker and his vision for our district? Why does the city have money for some students and not others?

Does Mayor Fulop want our schools, and our students, to fail? That thought seems extreme, but how else can you explain all of these deliberate decisions that undermine and disregard our public schools?

Does this all circle back to Mayor Fulop’s ambitions to convert the board of education from an elected body to an appointed body? It’s time to put politics and egos aside and put our children first.

Kristen Zadroga-Hart
McNair Academic High School Athletic Director

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