I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2015

Will The Charter School BS Ever Stop?

It never ends:
New Jersey's charter public schools are a lifeline -- we cannot continue to deplete resources from some of the highest performing schools in urban communities over the battle for funding equity and apolitical authorizing. The 1995 Charter Public School Authorization Act provided that charter public schools would receive 90 percent per pupil funding. Supplemental legislation in 2008, which established adjustment aid for districts in urban communities, conspicuously omitted charter public schools. The majority of our state's charter public schools are located in our more challenged urban communities. Considering the lack of adjustment aid, in reality, charters receive roughly 69% per pupil funding. The Ethical Community Charter School in Jersey City, for example, receives only 51 percent of the district per pupil funding ($9,047 compared to $17,859 for the district). Overall, Jersey City charters receive on average less than 55 percent of the district per pupil funding. [emphasis mine]
That's Timothy White, "advocacy chair" for the NJ Charter Schools Association. Because who better to opine on education policy than a public relations flack?

Let's start with the adjustment aid question first:

White chose Jersey City to make his case that charters receive less money than they should. I'm sure it's just a happy coincidence that Jersey City receives more adjustment aid than any other large school district that hosts charter schools.

Compare Jersey City to Newark, the state's largest city and home to more charter schools than any other. Newark's budget is only 1 percent adjustment aid. Statewide, adjustment aid is a little more than 2 percent of school budgets.

Using Jersey City to make the case that charters get screwed by not getting adjustment aid is like using Miami to make the case that the average US city temperature in January is 80 degrees: it's just not typical.

Further, the Jersey City public schools have to do all sorts of things the charters do not: provide transportation, support private schools, place extraordinary special education students out-of-district, maintain aging facilitates, etc. You can't expect charter schools to receive equivalent funds if they aren't doing equivalent jobs.

And that's especially true when you look at the demographics of Jersey City's charter student population compared to JCPS:

This is from the charter report I wrote with Julia Sass Rubin. There's ECCS, with the 4th lowest free-lunch eligible student population in Jersey City.

One of the great secrets of charter school funding in New Jersey is that districts pass funds on to schools using a formula similar to the School Funding Reform Act's formula. Students are "weighted" according to whether they qualify for free-lunch programs, have a special learning need, or are Limited English Proficient. The idea is obvious: these students need more funds because they are more expensive to educate. This is how we decide on state aid to schools in every New Jersey district.

Well, ECCS doesn't have many kids who qualify for the federal lunch program. And they don't have nearly as many kids as JCPS who have a special education need:

These are the reasons, then, that Ethical Community Charter School doesn't get as much per-pupil funding as the Jersey City district schools:
  • ECCS doesn't serve as many free-lunch, special education, or Limited English Proficient students as JCPS.
  • ECCS doesn't have the same responsibilities as JCPS.
White's argument is, therefore, utterly ridiculous.

People ask me why I'm against charter schools. Over and over, I say I'm not; I started my teaching career in a charter school. I think there may well be a place for some sort of "choice" system, particularly in large, urban areas.

What I am against are the transparently false arguments of people who, willingly or otherwise, do not understand the issues at play in charter school proliferation.

The charter school movement does itself no favors when it continues to publish foolishness like this. Stop the BS, guys. Please.

Jersey Jazzman reads yet another charter cheerleading op-ed in the Star-Ledger.
(Artist's conception)


StateAidGuy said...

Great post! The Adjustment Aid issue is a red herring because very few districts with charter schools receive any or very much Adjustment Aid in the first place.

Adjustment Aid is aid that districts get to make up for the fact that SFRA recommends that they should be getting less. Charter schools don't get Adjustment Aid because Adjustment Aid doesn't depend on student need, local resources, or even how many students a district has.

StateAidGuy said...

Adjustment Aid should not exist in the first place. Hundreds of NJ districts get nowhere near 100% of what SFRA recommends. The worst-aided districts get 10% of what they should get.

Adjustment Aid was included in SFRA as a "hold harmless" provision for overaided districts. It was supposed to be temporary and be obscured by billions in new Equalization and Sped Aid.

Since SFRA was passed in 2008 we have had economic stagnation and the pension crisis. Fully funding SFRA is not on the horizon, meaning Adjustment Aid continues to exist and worsen disparities in NJ's aid distribution.

The $555 million we spend on Adjustment Aid - one-fifth of which goes to Jersey City alone - should be redistributed as Equalization Aid.