Sunday, December 11, 2016

Falling FRL (Free or Reduced Lunch) Eligibility: Hoboken at 49% not 75% or 80%

Figure 1: Free and Reduced Lunch is 49% in Hoboken Public Schools
Click to Enlarge
One of the biggest myths making the rounds is that the current Hoboken School District has an extraordinarily high percentage of students from families who qualify for free or reduced lunch (FRL). This is a critical part to the justification or "narrative of low expectations" for the current school board majority. A popular refrain is "we have poor children, and everyone knows that children from low socio-economic conditions do not do well in school...or in state testing"-- (we won't go into the deficit thinking this perpetuates at this time). Therefore, when we read about extremely low PARCC scores in the high school, there is a canned answer.. "poor kids." When there are low test scores in the grammar schools, there is a pat answer..."poor families." Or when other schools in Hoboken do better on testing measures, there is a pat response..."they don't have the poor children we have." This serves the existing structures of the district such as the school board and, unfortunately, the teachers union very well. Central to this argument is the assumption that the Hoboken School District is a large majority free and reduced lunch district. 

But, its simply not true. In fact, the percentage of students in Hoboken who attend the traditional public schools who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch has dropped significantly over the past 9 years (from 75% to 49%) but state mandated test scores have not risen nor have they remained stable over that period of fact since 2009-10 scores on various state tests, SAT's continue to lag behind even minimal expectations, enrollment continues to drop (especially in the high school with resident students) and claims of "progress" and "greatness" permeate. 

There was a time the percentage was high. In a New York Times article "Hoboken's Rebirth Fuels School Aid Formula Fight."  In the article Hoboken school officials used a demographic argument in favor of sustaining their Abbott status and high state aid.

In Hoboken, for example, school officials said that a majority of their students come from housing projects, not the upscale condos whose owners often send their children to private or parochial schools. Seventy-five percent of the district’s students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch, the seventh-highest level among all Abbott districts, according to state statistics. Union City is first, with 92.7 percent, followed by Passaic (84.7 percent) and Asbury Park (81.9 percent). -NY Times 
Hoboken was being accurate, back in 2007 when The New York Times pointed out that it had the seventh highest percentage of students in the Abbotts who were FRL-eligible, but in 2015 and 2016 this is no longer the case.  However, according to the most current data from the Education Law Center, Hoboken's FRL-eligibility has fallen to 49%, only the 30th highest among the Abbotts. I suspect the percentage is even lower as the data tends to be at least a year or two behind. 

2013-14 School Year
Abbott DistrctFRL-eligibility
Camden City*95%
Union City*95%
Asbury Park City*93%
Bridgeton City*93%
Passaic City*91%
Salem City*89%
New Brunswick*88%
City of Orange*86%
Perth Amboy*85%
Elizabeth City*85%
West New York81%
Long Branch*79%
East Orange*76%
Jersey City71%
Vineland City70%
Gloucester City69%
Burlington City61%
Neptune Township52%

Thanks to New Jersey Education Aid-- CLICK HERE