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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shake Your Boutique

Is it possible that Cerf and Christie are starting to figure out that their "cure" for New Jersey's already excellent suburban public schools is something their base really doesn't need or want?
In Livingston, critics of the special-interest charter applications contend the schools will drain money away from the traditional public schools and lead to segregation. The debate is being heard everywhere, from the school playground to dozens of opinions being offered on Patch and other media sites.
In his softening stance toward suburban charters, Cerf said, “I can certainly see, particularly in successful school districts, particularly in smaller suburban ones that are kind of humming along, that sort of marginal gain of having a school that serves a particular boutique need … the cost-benefit analyst might take you in the direction of: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Cerf said.
“I can very much understand how that would be a sensible policy argument,” he said.
Charter schools in New Jersey are being approved in records numbers, and the two Mandarin charters for Livingston would open in September 2012 if approved by the NJ Department of Education.
If anyone can explain why the kids in Livingston need a Mandarin immersion school, let me know. Is it for the Chinese-American kids? Don't they need to be immersed in English?

One of the primary reasons folks spend a fortune on houses in districts like Livingston is to send their kids to schools that have small class sizes and lots of electives. So when a charter comes in and threatens to take away the funding for that, you can imagine people are not going to be happy:
On Monday night, the questions by elected school officials focused on money and concern that the charters would funnel funds away from districts already dealing with diminishing budgets. 
That’s been the case in Princeton, where the Princeton Charter School has existed for the past 12 years, said Rebecca Cox, Princeton's school board president. The district will write a check for $4.5 million to cover the costs of the 340 students who attend the K-8 charter school, Cox said.
Last year, Princeton Regional Schools cut its world language program to pay the charter school bill. “There’s great irony in that and quite frankly it felt misguided,” said Superintendent Dr. Judy Wilson.
Local school leaders zeroed in on the financial impact. In Livingston, the figure is estimated at about $500,000 for the first year of a charter’s operation.
"When we're trying to cut where we can, this is adding costs. That is my biggest concern," said Millburn Superintendent James Crisfield after the forum.
The way it stands now, the school boards will not have a say in whether charters open in their districts. That will be the decision of the NJ Department of Education. But there is movement in the legislature to give local voters a choice.
So let's review: Christie's base is in the 'burbs. He's rewarded that base by slashing their state aid - in some cases by 100% - and now he's pushing to force them to accept charters they don't need at the expense of school programs they want.

Yeah, my guess is they're going to want to rethink this a little...

No comments: