Parent activist group hosts Q & A session with all 8 Jersey City BOE candidates

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Hudson County View moderated a question and answer session, organized by a local parent activist group, between all eight Jersey City Board of Education candidates at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church last night.

Organized by Parents Take Action, a key topic during the informal debate was school funding.

First, candidates voiced their thoughts on the possibility of Jersey City implementing a payroll tax to help offset the multi-million dollar budget shortfall at the BOE.

“This deficit is not a matter of a few million dollars: this is hundreds of billions of dollars we’re talking about and this $70 million dollar plug that they’re giving us – that’s not even in our hands,” explained JC BOE Trustee Mussab Ali, who’s running on the Education Matters slate backed by the Jersey City Education Association.

“So, officially I support the payroll tax, but at the end of the day, the board of education can’t do anything about it: that’s in the hands of the city council. So I think we have to look toward alternate sources of revenue.”

Fellow Trustee Vidya Gangadin, seeking re-election on the Preparation, Community, Sustainability ticket, stressed coming up with both long- and short-term strategies that will not put more burden on the average taxpayer.

“Our taxpayer, most of them, are on a fixed income – we should not be raising property taxes – they’re the most vulnerable [population] in our city. As well as our educators at the same time, we have to be mindful not to create anxiety among out educators as well.”

Natalia Ioffe, an independent candidate in the race, later said that the BOE needs to start considering outside the box ideas to combat the rapidly decreasing school funding from Trenton.

“Long-term sustainability, we have certain strategies that our currently existing in our public school district, bureaucracy, red tape, that is not allowing us to save costs properly. We don’t have access to the free market the way non-profits do: And if you notice, in the past three years, even teachers have caught on to the free market strategy access,” she said.

A longer clip streamed by one of the attendees can be viewed below: