Trenton Public Schools District now has company as it tries to repair the damage from City Council President Kathy McBride’s refusal to approve $24.2 million in a local tax levy for the city schools. Trenton Education Association and the New Jersey Education Association are joining with the district in amicus curiae filings (friends of the court) to persuade a judge to force McBride’s hand. McBride says she won’t approve any money going to the city’s seven public charter schools, even though that tuition money comes from the state. That local tax levy is a tiny fraction–just 6%—of the district’s $419 million 2022-2023 budget, well below Trenton’s Local Fair Share.
According to the a sworn certification from Trenton Education Association President Talithea Duncan, reports the Trentonian, the loss of that $24.2 million will lead to cuts in after-school programs, clubs, COVID-19 make-up classes, as well as lay-offs for security guards, maintenance workers, special education paraprofessionals, and those who work in technology and professional development.
“If the district experiences the cuts and financial insecurity that has been outlined, then it will cause not only great harm to the TEA members who lose positions, pay and necessary classroom support, but also to the students and community that the TEA serve,” Duncan said.
Trenton School Board attorney Raymond Baldino wrote that the McBride’s action would be “an open invitation to other municipal councils to take similar unlawful actions” and sends “a terrible message” to teachers and students.
At a time where all school districts are struggling to retain educators and students are only beginning to recover from several years of impaired instruction caused by a 100-year pandemic event, the actions of the City are especially troubling. Many students and educators will conclude that if the City Council in their own community is willing to jeopardize instruction by withholding funding, that they are not respected or valued. Such tragic consequences should not be permitted even for a temporary period of time, especially where the violation of the law is so clear.
The 18,000 students who attend district schools already have enough to contend with. On the latest state assessments called Start Strong, fewer than 10% of Trenton High 10th-graders were reading proficiently; 83.3% received the lowest grade, “needs strong support.” Every student who took the proficiency test in algebra 1 “needs strong support.” The graduation rate at Trenton Central High is 66%.
McBride did not respond to requests for comment.
(Photo courtesy of 101.5.)