Academy 1 Middle School Jersey City

Dear Editor:

This is in response to “The Mayor Says Jersey City Schools are Failing: Critics Disagree” in the Jersey City Times. It is rare for me to agree with Mayor Fulop but spending $1 billion for the local school system is tantamount to stealing private property. It is not equitable because there are too many exceptions in the law on who pays property taxes, especially school taxes. The state is responsible for the shortage of aid due to its actions of placing more children in the local public schools.

I became aware of the state giving grant money to non-profits to place immigrants in urban communities. Back in 1990, Governor Florio put a 1% tax on toilet paper which caused an uproar. That lead to community meetings when the governor decided not to give money to local communities for six months.

I attended one of those meetings where non-profit groups saw their funding cut. They boldly stated they needed their money to place immigrants in urban areas. Fast forward, these groups also receive tons of money from the federal government, too. Catholic Charities received over $1.6 billion during the Obama years. New Jersey, with the blessing of many governors, has been packing urban communities with more people who use the public schools, unlike the suburban towns. The majority of these immigrants were placed in affordable housing and rent control buildings that do not pay yearly taxes compared to the regular small homeowner.

Suburban towns have zoning which prevents multi-family buildings, so communities like Jersey City are educating non-citizens with local taxes. This is not about who is an immigrant but who pays for education. If the state wants a policy of placing immigrants, especially immigrant children in urban communities, then the state should pay for this policy.

So, those graphs that show Jersey City receiving more state aid than suburban communities are wrong, at least the suburban areas were paying for local residents’ students while Jersey City was educating students globally.

It is the State of New Jersey’s obligation to educate students they placed in Jersey City; it is ironic that Democratic Phil Murphy whose budget is 41% higher than Governor Chris Christie but he is the one who cut state aid to Jersey City.

This November, Jersey City will have a lien sale on homes that cannot pay their 2022 taxes. Last year 4,200 homes were in the lien. Where is the fairness in a system that displaces long-term homeowners for education dollars while the governor is spending more money? Chris Christie’s last budget was $34 billion. Phil Murphy’s budget is now close to $50 billion.

Furthermore, the state pushed the sales, income, and lottery as a way to pay for local education. So, use that money and leave local taxpayers alone. Let’s stop treating education so sacred as though it is a religion that requires sacrifice. In reality, as long as this country keeps importing foreign workers, it does not mean Jersey City’s students will have a job when they are adults, either.

Yvonne Balcer