When Jersey City public school students head back to classes next week, theyll find that a host of sports programs have been slashed due to budget cuts.
The 29,000-student district has cut all freshman athletic teams and reduced the number of assistant coaches. Freshmen will remain eligible for varsity and junior varsity teams. Golf and bowling teams are cut entirely.
The cuts came after the district had to close a $70 million shortfall earlier this year. The state, meanwhile, took back more than $5 million in expected aid. The cuts to athletics represent about $1 million, according to Sudhan Thomas, the school board president.
The changes have angered parents and students. Ariana Ortiz, 17, is beginning her senior year at High Tech High School. The county school system no longer has athletic programs so students there join teams with their home school districts.
Ortiz runs track for Dickinson High School. She said the teams have lost assistant coaches and there is now a cap on the number of athletes who can join. She told The Jersey Journal she worries about what this means for some of the girls who arent naturally gifted but like being part of the team.
“A lot of the girls on my team have nowhere to go after school,” she said. “If they dont do something productive, theyre on the street.”
Andy Kemp, who works for Jersey Citys recreation department, was blunt when speaking to school board members at their meeting Thursday.
The budget problems for the district are just beginning. Between now and 2025, the state is slashing a form of aid that is worth $174 million. About half of that is expected to be offset by a local payroll tax, but that tax plan has yet to win approval from the City Council. Business groups are staunchly opposed to the tax and are lobbying council members to defeat it.
“Each decision has been made with an eye to ensure that we provide the most and best that we can for our students within our shrinking budget,” Dickar told The Jersey Journal. “Despite the tough financial decisions we have had to make, the district is committed to continuing the progress we have made over the last few years.”
The school board on Thursday voted to task its finance committee with finding $1 million in the budget to restore any cut athletic programs.
“The board will review these changes … to see if there is any scope of roll-back or cost sharing with other bodies for the preservation of these programs if possible,” Thomas told The Jersey Journal.
Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.