Oh, my heavens! How uncouth for these towns to stand up for themselves and demand accountability when it's their tax dollars that are being used to fund these unproven, unnecessary experiments in education!Perhaps the biggest rap against charters is that the local community must pay for them -- at least for tuition and transportation -- a fact that's trotted out at seemingly every opportunity by their opponents.In the fabric of New Jersey's public education system, the thread-count for charter schools is low. Yet their existence provokes the sort of red-faced rhetoric more suited to a Giants game than a discussion of educational options. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and think about what’s at stake.
Miss Laura, let me explain to you how democracy works: if the good people of Princeton decide that the money spent fighting this incursion into their schools is ill-spent, they will vote out the school board members who approved it. If, however, they decide the local charter school is not spending their money wisely, they will have no recourse.Example: in 2010 an aspiring charter called Princeton International Academy Charter School filed an application with the DOE to open a tiny Mandarin-immersion school that would draw from three districts: Princeton, West Windsor-Plainsboro, and South Brunswick. All affected boards of education weighed in and each gave a vigorous thumbs-down, a verdict as predictable as the tides.Former commissioner Lucille Davy approved the application. In response, the three districts mounted a public relations campaign to fight the opening of the school. Current costs for lawyers, zoning engineers, and other professionals are estimated at about $100,000, which came from school taxes. In response, PIACS has hired its own lobbyists and lawyers and is suing the Princeton Regional School Board for misuse of public funds. Judge Lisa James-Beavers just ruled in favor of Princeton; PIACS is appealing her decision to acting commissioner Chris Cerf, who will rule in February.
"But the parents can vote with their feet! The school will close if they don't attract enough students!" Yes, and the school will stay open if they can convince enough parents who want to isolate their kids from the rest of the community to stick with them. But the parents aren't the only ones with a vested interest - who speaks for the other citizens of the town?
A school is not a business, Laura - it is a civic institution. Everyone in the community has a stake in it, not just the parents. If this community as a whole decides they are well-served by having a charter, so be it - but all of the stakeholders need to be at the table. New Jersey's charter law makes that impossible.
So you admit the cream has been skimmed, and the children who are difficult and expensive to teach are left back at the public school. Thank you for making my point.Obviously, it’s worth a lot to these three wealthy towns to stymie establishment of the charter. Princeton’s already been burned by Princeton Charter School, which bills the district annually for about $5 million in tuition and entices the cream (of the cream, if you will) away from the already high-performing traditional district.
I won't go on, because Laura's commenters pretty much put her in her place, as is typical for her NJ Spotlight pieces. But I will leave you with one thought, aimed at the good people of Lawrence Township, NJ:
Laura Waters is your BOE president. And she thinks it would be perfectly fine if the state came in and forced you to take a charter without you having any say in the matter. She thinks you should simply trust Trenton to approve any charter that drains your tax monies away from your community's schools.
People of Lawrence, are you OK with that?
You people are SO zealous in demanding a say in your town's schools! Mercy!
ADDING: Hey, you know what might help the debate right now? A report about charter schools that looks closely at all the data. If only we had one...
ADDING MORE: Seriously, read the comments on Water's piece. Her entire argument is dismantled by the posters. It ain't pretty.
This one addresses Princeton:
Among the many inaccuracies and half-truths in this opinion piece, Ms. Waters's comment that "Princeton Charter School which bills the district annually for about $5 million in tuition and entices the cream (of the cream, if you will) away from the already high-performing traditional district" ignores a few key facts. The school board in Princeton has estimated that it could educate the 340 or so students at Princeton Charter in its own excellent, neighborhood public schools for about $3.8 million LESS per year than it gives Princeton Charter. In a time of budgetary contraints, the economics alone should be enough to prove the point. However, when you look at the test score data — the only thing that seems to matter to the privatizers —you see that Princeton Charter students don't do significantly better than their peers in the district's regular public schools. and some do worse. In fact, the only significant difference is in Princeton Charter's disproportionally lower numbers of students in special populations. http://bit.ly/prsVpcsOuch.