STATEMENT BY TRENTON MAYOR ERIC JACKSON ON
THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S $19 MILLION BUDGET SHORTFALL
The future of our city is tied to our educational system. Our children must have the potential to compete in the 21st century. It is incumbent upon our District to provide them with the tools necessary for success.
Right now, my administration is laying the groundwork for a safer city, a city on the verge of economic growth, a city that embraces arts and culture, and supports both small and large business development. We are meeting these challenges by working collaboratively with stakeholders throughout our city, county and state. I want a city where our best and brightest have a reason to stay in Trenton and raise their families here.
As the groundwork for our future is underway, we need a school district with leadership that is committed to that same vision. The district leadership must work hand and hand with the parents, teachers, board of education members and community leaders. And I urged them to continue to do so.
I have had regular meetings and discussions over the last three months with the District Administration and union leadership to accomplish the following:
--> To discuss the causes of the budget shortfall
--> To review the options presented by the District Administration to close the budget gap; and
--> To ensure that the proposed cuts cause the least amount of impact to the education of our students and in the classrooms.
--> To hear from all sides of the issue. I wanted to ensure that the commitment to our students was real, more than just words.
I wanted to ensure that all parties knew that I do not support efforts to privatize any components of our educational system. There are so many people that contribute to a successful learning environment: those who teach, those who keep our kids safe, and those who maintain our school buildings. None can be discarded under the guise of privatization.
The district administration had not provided detailed budget information to the union leadership. The perceived lack of transparency had frustrated their ongoing discussions and has made it difficult for union leadership to respond with informed recommendations. In order to have “real talk” on these difficult issues, there needs to be a free flow of information between all the parties. Essential budget information needs to be shared with all the relevant stakeholders—parents, community, union leaders, and my administration. We must strive for a process where critical information is shared. Otherwise, we will not achieve the best results for our students.
As you know, a $19 million budget gaps doesn’t happen overnight. Over the past several years, the district has seen an exodus of students to Alternative Public Schools. This trend has led to a decrease in revenue to the district, while the Alternate Public Schools have performed with mixed results. However, the district administration must do more to retain students in our district. We must promote our successes; our improved graduation rates in 2014 and a reduction in dropout rates.
I am angry as every other resident in this city about what is taking place in our district. As a result, I am calling upon our leadership (local, county and state) to come to the table with viable solutions – not only this year but with a strategic budget plan to mitigate the risk of finding ourselves in this situation again. To this end, I have called for meetings with district administration, union leadership, board of education members and state officials to determine the course of action that is best for our students.
I have called upon the district administration to share detailed budget information with district union leadership immediately for their help to find solutions to this eminent problem.
I am calling upon the school board members to continue to ask the tough questions and demand real answers before taking action on any proposal.
I had a discussion with county and state education monitors just today to help find solutions to this issue.
Privatization and massive layoffs cannot be the solution. Our children, students and families deserve better.
Please direct all press inquiries to:
Michael A. Walker
Public Information Officer and Aide to the Mayor
City of Trenton
Office of the Mayor
319 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608
Cell Phone: 609-789-7272