Opinion: Jersey City public schools is a mixed bag that needs a closer look

Written by on April 20, 2021

The views and opinions written in this article are those of the author and do not represent WMSC or Montclair State University. 

Lately the Jersey City public school system has been a topic of discussion in school funding reform agendas. Some New Jersey Republican state legislators argue that Jersey City and Hoboken have seen major redevelopment and, thus, should have their aid cut due to the higher tax base these towns have. 

 In the case of the Jersey City public school system, funding has to be on a case by case basis especially when it comes to title one funding allocation. Some schools in Jersey City need the title one aid as their test scores are below the state average while some schools in the area are ranked as some of the best schools in the state. 

An example of the academic differentials of the Jersey City public school system is that Infinity High School in Jersey City is ranked as one of the best schools in the state of New Jersey while James J Ferris High School ranks near the bottom in terms of test scores and proficiency. Due to the varying achievement level of Jersey City public schools, aid needs to be distributed to schools according to academic achievement of the school and not just a general cut of the Jersey City school budget. If we don’t, many of the schools where students are already struggling will be hit hard. 

Some Republican  lawmakers in New Jersey will also bring up funds from redevelopment programs. They argue that we should divert them to fund public schools in the area in the same way that a majority of property tax revenue goes towards public schools. The problem that arises,  however, with this proposal is that a majority of revenue from redevelopment programs is primarily dedicated towards two things: other  redevelopment programs in the areas and local amenities in the area such as hospitals. 

Had it not been for these redevelopment incentives and programs, many New Jersey towns would not have seen the positive turnaround that they are seeing now. New Jersey has a lot of redevelopment that is positively impacting communities such as Newark, Jersey City, and Asbury Park. If we were to implement this idea, redevelopment in many areas of New Jersey such as Newark Broad Street would stall and hospitals could lose funding for essentials such as beds and life saving equipment like ventilators. 

Many school districts in New Jersey such as Jersey City would benefit from charter school expansions. Charter schools provide competition to public schools, thus, giving public schools an incentive to hire better teachers and invest more in their students. Charter schools also generally perform better than public schools despite receiving less money than traditional public schools. This is in part because charter schools are able to fire teachers at will as opposed to  government schools where teachers can receive tenure which makes it nearly impossible to fire them for poor performance. 

New Jersey spends millions per year on districts such as Newark, Paterson, and Asbury Park in hopes that test scores will go up, however, we have yet to see this correlation in action. If these communities were to have more charter schools, students would have a better alternative to failing  public schools. Education aid to Jersey City schools is not a black and white issue as both sides of the aisle have tried to paint it as. Due to redevelopment in the area some public schools in Jersey City need to have their aid looked at while other schools in Jersey City need the extra aid to help their students succeed.


Article By Thomas Tarter

Photo by Anthony Infante