Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jersey City's Development Boom, Pre-K, and the Aid Cuts Coming Your Way

It's a great time to be mayor of Jersey City. With new construction everywhere around him, Mayor Steve Fulop has predicted that Jersey City will overtake Newark to become the state's largest city by the end of 2016.
"I think that as New York City — Manhattan — has become less affordable, people look for alternatives. We’re situated in a sweet spot. We have 5,600 units under construction — more than any other city in the state — and another 7,000 on deck next year."

[Above: "Journal Squared"]

I'm not saying that this growth isn't good for New Jersey as a whole, but it comes with a downside for school finance for non-Abbott districts. The downside for school finance is that Jersey City's development boom is expected to increase the size of the Pre-K population by 25% by 2017 and keep growing thereafter. Since Jersey City is an Abbott and the NJ Supreme Court requires the state to pay 100% of Pre-K costs for all children in the Abbott districts, this means that New Jersey will have at least a 25% increase in Pre-K costs for Jersey City.  Although the residents of Jersey City's new construction will pay state taxes, reality is that all that new state revenue will go to the Pension Crisis. This means that that Jersey City's Pre-K growth will but even more pressure on education aid for other school districts.

Steve Fulop understands that the Pre-K population is going to increase. He is thus offering tax abatements to developers who provide space for Pre-K classrooms in new buildings.

Building more pre-K centers is a signature initiative of the Fulop administration, which is offering developers longer tax breaks if they commit to building them. The district doesn’t have enough public space for the 4,500 pre-K students enrolled now, and that number is expected to grow dramatically as development in Jersey City expands.
Just how much is Jersey City's Pre-K population boom going to cost New Jersey?

Jersey City now gets $67.5 million for Pre-K. With 2% inflation and 25% population growth, this means that in five years Jersey City's Pre-K will cost $93.5 million. Unless the New Jersey Supreme Court comes to its senses, that additional $26 million will be taken away from other New Jersey school districts.

The Pension Crisis is the predominant pressure on K-12 aid across the state, but increased expenditures for Pre-K funding in the Abbotts also hurt and Jersey City's increase is disproportionate to the other Abbotts. For 2015-16 Jersey City's increase for Pre-K was $2.7 million. That might not sound like a lot at first, but remember that the whole Pre-K and K-12 increase for New Jersey was only $8 million.

What's additionally ridiculous about this is that most of Jersey City's new residents are high-income. Over the next few years the absurdity of rich Abbott residents getting "free" Pre-K while poor non-Abbott residents go hang is going to become even more common.

Jersey City residents seem to be clueless about their exorbitant privilege. The Hudson Reporter ran this story about a creative director named Josh Bryant who waited in line for 48 hours for his son's "free" Pre-K education.

Josh Bryant, a 39-year-old tattooed creative director at a publishing company, used to wait in line to see bands like The Clash.
Now, he's waiting in line for something more important: his son's education.
Bryant and dozens of other parents are queued up – for up to nearly 48 hours – to secure one of 90 free (that is, state-paid) "first come, first served" preK spots for their 3-year-olds at Concordia Childhood Learning Center.
It's one of 38 preschool programs with Jersey City Board of Education contracts, Concordia's director Migdalia Viole said - but it's become so desirable that some professional parents worried about a segregative effect.
"I sort of regret the fact that I am able to take two days off work to sit here. Not everybody can do that," said Bryant, who started waiting at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Jersey City kids still get "free" Pre-K no matter what. Josh Bryant should "regret" the fact that poor kids outside the Abbott bubble GET NOTHING.

In conclusion, the rigid Abbott Pre-K mandate combined with the Pension Crisis means that Jersey City will enjoy funding increases while the rest of the state's districts see decreases.

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