Except in the cities above, it is NOT the district that is trying to open a charter; it's an outsider, looking to come into the district and take their funds. If it were the local district attempting to open the charter, there wouldn't be an issue; the district would still be controlling their own purse strings. In the cases above, they aren't.As charter schools begin to spread beyond the urban districts where they first took root, they are provoking a political backlash in the suburbs that could weaken support for the overall movement. We've seen the brush fires in Cherry Hill, East Brunswick, Millburn, Montclair and Princeton.In our view, the opposition in the suburbs is mostly misplaced. Every district has the right to open a charter, an alternative public school that educates kids differently. And the financial burden to host districts is way overblown. [emphasis mine]
I'll get to the financial burden in a second.
But without doubt, charter schools are needed most urgently in districts where conventional public schools have failed, and parents can't afford to send their kids elsewhere. In cities like Newark and Camden, crowds routinely flood charter admission lotteries, and waiting lists run hundreds deep. The demand for escape routes from the failing traditional schools is overwhelming. [emphasis mine]That would be all well and good, if there were any evidence that charter schools do any better. There isn't. Even putting aside the fact that so many charters fail, there is a great deal of evidence that "successful" charters do not teach the same kids that the public schools do. There is simply no reason to think charters are any sort of solution to our urban education woes.
In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that the charter schools that do "succeed" are promoting a return to segregation. New Jersey already has a problem with segregated schools; do we want to make it worse?
The S-L goes on to point out the folly of installing a Hebrew language charter in New Brunswick. All well and good, although some focus on the poorly designed process for review would help (thx, Darcie). And pointing out that ACTING Commissioner Cerf's report on charter schools is way overdue would be useful as well.
But here's where the S-L really drops the ball:
What the S-L fails to apprehend - yet again - is that it doesn't cost the same amount to educate every child. Kids who have special needs require more funds, but these are precisely the kids who will not be going to boutique charter schools. So it's more than just economies of scale (although the S-L's dismissal of that issue is far to casual); it's about the characteristics of the kids who go to charters vs. the ones who stay in public schools.Critics accuse charters of draining money from traditional schools. And yes, money is diverted from the districts to the charter when a child moves. But that’s because the money rightfully follows the child, allowing parents to make the best choice for their children. And because the host district keeps a portion of the state aid earmarked for students in charters, a district may actually save money once a critical mass of kids leave.It’s true that when a district is very small, or just a handful of students leave for a charter, the overall budget may be hurt. And not all charters are effective; some are terrible.But that’s no argument against the idea of charter schools. It’s an argument for the state to be very picky about which schools are approved. This Hebrew charter doesn’t meet the test. The state was right to say no. [emphasis mine]
If the S-L really wants to get to the bottom of this, they should join with me and others in calling for a moratorium on charter school approvals until after the report Cerf promised is released and fully vetted. Even then, there needs to be a local braking system on charter approvals. The state should not usurp the fiduciary responsibility local school boards have to police how their school funds are spent. It's hypocritical to laud this idea of "parental choice" when the duly elected representatives of a community have no choice in how their funds are spent.