The number of city students enrolled at the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) has dropped significantly after peaking in 2008-09 school year. There were 2,232 students from Paterson enrolled at the high school that year, according to public records.
Today, 2017-18 school year, there are 1,538 students, according to the high school, representing a 31-percent drop. There has been steady decline in enrollment over the past decade, according to the district’s annual audit reports.
The drop has reduced the amount of money the city’s school district has had to send to the high school over the years. In 2008-09, the district sent $26.37 million to the high school. Although enrollment slightly dropped the next year to 2,189, the district sent $26.65 million.
Business administrator Richard Matthews earlier in the year stated the district sent $19 million to the high school in 2017-18 school year. His presentation on Monday night estimated $19.28 million will be sent in 2018-19 school year.
School district officials have described the money allocated for the high school as an ostensible “cost driver,” an upward change in the cost of an activity, along with charter schools, despite a year after year decrease since the 2009-10 peak.
“It’s still $19 million,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer earlier in the month.
The amount of money the district transfers to charter schools has increased by leaps and bounds in the past years. In 2017-18, the district transferred $46 million that is expected to jump to $55 million next school year.
“Wow, it’s a big drop,” said school board member Flavio Rivera, chairman of the fiscal committee, when told of the enrollment decrease over the past decade. “I’ve never complained about the funding that goes to them because of the kids. They are still our kids,” he said. He acknowledged several of his fellow board members have complained about the amount that is transferred to the high school.
“That’s good news,” remarked school board member Jonathan Hodges. He has been the most vocal critic of the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) on the board.
Rivera said a lot has changed in the district since 2008-09 school year. He said parents often dislike sending their children to Eastside High School and John F. Kennedy High School due preconception that the district’s two biggest high schools are “bad.”
The same stigma does not exist for International High School, said Rivera. The district also broke up its large high schools into smaller academies which may have helped to retain students.
“I think the building of International also had an influence in the drop,” said Carrie Gonzalez, whose daughter attends the county high school.
Hodges worries the downward trend may reverse with $30 million expansion of the Passaic County Tech.
The district last school year ended courtesy busing for almost 500 students attending the high schools. Students living in the western and northern parts of Paterson were impacted. The high school agreed to pick up the cost and provide transportation to the students for 2017-18. Uncertainty looms for next school year.
“I foresee more kids staying in Paterson due to the busing issue. I know parents whose kids applied but due to busing decided not to send their kids there,” said Gonzalez.