Two leading superintendents from the three public high school districts in San Jose say the city failed to notify them of a six-figure grant proposal for a work-study program that was instead awarded to a private, Catholic school.

Two weeks ago, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted to award a contract to the sole qualifying candidate — Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, a Catholic school that educates students from low-income families.

The nearly million dollar grant will fund a work-study program — a partnership between the school and the city, where 24 students will receive work experience or a paid internship at City Hall until June 2023.

The $838,264 in funds for the program are paid directly to Cristo Rey to also help subsidize tuition costs for these students. According to the school’s website, yearly tuition costs per student are $15,750. For students participating in the work-study program, the “fees generated by the students’ work account for about 50 percent of the cost of their tuition.”

But at least two education leaders are saying they didn’t get a fair shot to compete for the public dollars.

“My office — the superintendent’s office — did not receive any information about this,” said Superintendent Chris Funk from the East Side Union High School District. “There are only three superintendents in the city of San Jose that have high schools. And why would you not want to engage with the superintendents when you’re talking about a contract worth a million dollars?”

“To me, it’s unconscionable that we’re using taxpayer money to underwrite parochial school tuition,” added Funk. “We have free public schools, free public education and underserved communities. We have families that can’t afford the $15,000 tuition, so they would love to have an opportunity to provide enrichment opportunities for their own kids at the city.”

San Jose Unified School District Superintendent Nancy Albarrán said she wasn’t notified by City Hall about the opportunity to bid for the public dollars, either.

“We have a lot of students in our system who are looking for work experiences that are meaningful, and it would have been great for them to be able to access this opportunity, and then come back and contribute after they graduate from college in the community they grew up in,” Albarrán said. “It’s disappointing. So I think it’s a real missed opportunity for us.”

Full story at San Jose Spotlight.