More than 200 education jobs cut, including 150 teachers and 23 vice principals. Class sizes would balloon. Art and music classes would be erased.
The budget proposed by the school board in Paterson, the third largest city in New Jersey, offered a staggering package of cuts. Officials said they have no choice but to make the cuts that stand to undo years of gains by the long-struggling school district.
The board’s recent vote has plunged this economically distressed city into a wrenching debate about how its schools are funded, who controls the education of its nearly 29,000 public school children and what it will finally take to lift Paterson — a once-thriving industrial center — from its bleak past.
“The upsetting thing about it is the district was in a rebound,’’ said Rosie Grant, the executive director of the Paterson Education Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group. “They have put in early reading programs, math programs, different interventions, and we were seeing some results from that.
“All that will be erased.”
Paterson is one of four poor-performing districts that were taken over by the state starting in 1989, after officials determined that the school systems had fallen into educational bankruptcy with dismally low test scores and poor high school graduation rates. Newark and Jersey City have since regained control of their schools, but Camden and Paterson are still under state oversight.
Despite the worry that has gripped Paterson, some officials questioned whether the district’s threatened cuts were meant to try to force the state to provide more financing. Two years ago, the school board said it would lay off about 96 teachers, according to reports, but ultimately 25 teachers ended up losing jobs.