The city’s governing body and mayor registered their opposition to governor Chris Christie’s “fairness formula” which will subtract millions of dollars in education funding from the Paterson Public Schools by passing a resolution on Tuesday night.
“We believe the fairness formula is actually unfair, unconstitutional, and a demonstration of the governor’s intent to further disenfranchise children whose parents happen to live in urban centers and happen to be poor,” said council president William McKoy. “Our constitution guarantees every child a thorough and efficient education regardless of their station in life and or the economic circumstances of their parents.”
Christie wants to give every child in the state $6,599 in education aid. Paterson spent $21,481 per pupil in the 2014-15 school year, according to the New Jersey Department of Education. 80-percent of the district’s budget is supported by state education funding. The district will lose $218 million under the governor’s plan, according to the Newark-based Education Law Center.
“This is a disaster for our district. There’s so much need in our community. We’re getting a student every day from different countries around the world,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, who previously served on the Board of Education.
The governor has lost his relevancy through his sagging poll numbers and his failed presidential bid, said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. “It’s really so he becomes relevant. He was losing his relevancy. He had to do something to create a dialogue,” he said. “Would we be talking about this governor at this point in his career had it not been for this?”
Morris said the governor is intentionally pitting the suburban towns against urban cities. 75-percent of towns in New Jersey will receive tax relief at the expense of urban school districts, according to advocates.
“This is a red herring. The governor is trying to deflect attention from the negative press he’s received particularly from the Bridgegate trials,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. “This is far worse than Bridgegate. Bridgegate inconvenienced people for a few days this will affect generations of children across the state.”
Several school board members and school board candidates commended the council for passing the resolution in an 8-0 vote. Candidates Corey Teague and Errol Kerr spoke out against the funding formula.
“The governor needs to go back and research what fairness is. He has no idea what fairness is,” said Kerr.
“This is deliberate to make people fight each other for crumbs,” said school board member Jonathan Hodges. “This jeopardizes urban school districts – we’re the ones that will suffer.” He said the governor aims to “starve” city students of an education.
Hodges called the formula “disgraceful.” Though he does not have supporters in the city, the governor was able to get a supporting certification from state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans for his case to overturn the Abbott v. Burke decision which allots extra funds to Paterson and 30 other urban school districts.
Evans defended himself by stating he was not addressing the funding formula in the court certification submitted by the state.
“This governor has no concern for our people,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. He has repeatedly blamed the state for underfunding the city’s school district by millions of dollars. He said the underfunding translates to poor education which further worsens crime in the streets.
Sayegh invited the governor, who has been pitching his formula to suburban voters, to come to Paterson. Christie came to Paterson in the summer to meet with a group of parents at the Paterson Science and Technology Charter School.
“He wouldn’t come to the general public to present it,” said Teague, a former school board member seeking to get back on the school board.
The governor received a rough reception when he was greeted by hundreds of teachers and activists.