The Boys and Girls Club has been serving the Jersey City community by providing recreational and community services for over 100 years. In September 1997, the Club took on a new tenant, The Learning Community Charter School, a charter public school. This tenancy has provided the Boys and Girls Club with a new lease on life. For the past two years, the Club has received federal funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to expand its premises to house its tenant, thereby increasing its revenues. The increase in revenues has allowed the Club to expand its services and to offer new ones. This partnership with the School has also offered a new synergy of creativity and together they have applied for and received over $70,000 in grants to offer new after-school programs for children in all wards of the City in guitar, piano, pantomime, sculpture, puppetry, magic and more. This is the kind of programming that one should expect from a community center.
As most people are now aware, New Jersey’s charter public schools receive only 90 percent of the per pupil allocation and no money for facilities. Furthermore, we do not qualify for loans because of the limited nature of the charters themselves. No bank will fund an entity that has a possible life of four or five years. Charter public schools must therefore look to other sources for facilities funding. Some schools fare run by outside corporations with their own access to funding; others, like the LCCS, were founded by and are run by parents. We therefore look to our landlord, the Boys and Girls Club, for help to provide our children with 6th grade classrooms.
At the special session of the City Council, five members of the Council, Robert Cavanaugh, Arnold Bettinger, Harvey Smith, Melissa Holloway and Mary Donnelly, voted to amend the proposal submitted by the City to cut all funding for the landlords of three charter schools. One landlord was seeking funding to build a full size gymnasium within a charter school to be used by the Lafayette community; and as stated, the Boys and Girls Club would have used increased rents from the 6th grade classes to provide more recreational and cultural services to our City’s children. But in the grand tradition of political double-speak, Robert Cavanaugh led the charge to gut this funding of recreational facilities in order to provide recreational facilities. I kid you not. The fact that no other entity has applied for funding for recreational facilities, other than those he attempted to cut, seems to be beside the point.
Melissa Holloway was quoted in another paper that part of her objection to the funding was that the Boys and Girls Club has received funding in the past. If past funding were grounds for disqualification, the vast majority of project applicants would have been denied. In fact, many projects that Ms. Holloway supports inside and outside her ward have received funding over several years.
After the meeting, these five council members sent letters to would-be grant recipients stating that their grants were held up because of the Mayor’s “special interests.” Shame on you! The education of our City’s children is a “special interest?” Please have the decency to tell these people what really happened at this meeting and who is really to blame for the delay. It is you five who decided behind closed doors to gut funding to valuable community organizations. Instead of pointing fingers, you should have the moral fiber to take responsibility for your own actions.
I would like to thank Mariano Vega, Tom DeGise, Fernando Colon and William Gaughan for putting children ahead of politics.