Board of Ed Opposes Charter Schools
Board passes resolution supporting a proposal to require a public vote on charters.
Updated 9:28 a.m.
The Millburn Board of Education Monday night passed a resolution opposing charter schools and supporting the New Jersey School Board Association’s resolution to require voter approval for them.
School Board members voiced opposition not only to the way the charters are funded – with the district paying 90 percent of the per pupil cost for students who choose charters – but because Millburn is a successful district and doesn’t need any “specialty” schools.
Two Mandarin-immersion schools – Hanyu International Academy Charter School in Livingston and Hua Mei Charter School in Maplewood – are seeking state approval to open. If approved, the schools could start serving Millburn and other nearby districts, by September 2012.
In seeking public input and drafting resolutions, the board and the administration were trying to reach next week’s deadline for expressing opposition to the state.
Voicing his opposition to charter schools, board member Jeff Waters said that even if only 60 students in the district opted for the charter schools – the equivalent of a couple of students per class per elementary school – the cost to the district would be $800,000.
Princeton started that way too, he said, and now, several years later that district is paying nearly $5 million on Charter Schools.
"[The schools] are using a loophole to draw our resources,” he said. “It’s a step that is destructive to our community.”
All the other board members had similar concerns, as well as the fact the school district would bear the costs of busing students to the charters, which are proposed for locations in Livingston and Maplewood. In addition, Board Member Regina Truitt said, teachers can take a 3-year leave of absence to teach at charters.
All of the dozen or so people who spoke were against the charter schools, including several Chinese residents who said they moved to Millburn for its schools and that charter schools are not the best place to learn Chinese.
“How can you risk public school money for a high-risk venture?” asked Liang Hung. “This Chinese immersion is very risky. I think they are going to fail and who is going to pay the bill?
“…I came from China, but this is our community now, and we have to protect it,” he said. “If anyone wants immersion, I can find a family in Shanghai to stay with for free.”
Matthew Stewart, representing about 100 families in the newly formed Millburn Parents Against Charter Schools, brought up the slippery slope aspect of approving so-called boutique charters.
“If we continue to approve charters for one ethnic group or language, how can we then turn around and say no to the next?” he said, calling the process “taxation without representation.”
Jerry Meng presented the board with an online petition that had 537 signatures (440 from Livingston, 74 Millburn and the rest of South Orange/Maplewood and West Orange). The petition asked signers to specify schools they oppose and also if they wanted to withdraw previous support for those schools. Meng had some 514 signatures opposing Hanyu and 481 opposing Hua Mei as well as 30 who asked to withdraw previous support for either school.
“A charter school is not the best way to learn Chinese,” Meng said.
Superintendent James Crisfield testified Monday afternoon in Trenton regarding charter schools drawing from Mlllburn and how hard it is to balance the budget as it is without having to pay toward charter schools.
News out of Trenton Monday evening was that a bill requiring voter approval of new charter schools was passed by the Assembly Education Committee, according to members of The Princeton Regional Schools Board of Education attending the committee hearing.
The committee approved A2805, by Assemblywoman Linda R. Greenstein (D-Mercer and Middlesex), which would require a public vote of approval prior to the establishment of a new charter school.
A bill by Mila Jasey (D-Essex) also passed by the state Assembly Education Committee on Monday afternoon. That bill enables Rutgers University to authorize charter schools; expedites approval of charter school applications; and permits authorization of special purpose charter schools. New Jersey is one of only four states in the country in which the state Department of Education is the sole authorization.
At Monday's BOE meeting, the board did not pass its resolution unanimously because while board members agreed unanimously that they oppose charter schools in this area, a few took issue with the wording of New Jersey School Board Association’s resolution seeking that charter schools have voter approval. The language made it unclear as to whether they were seeking voter approval or voter input. The vote was 6-3 in support of the resolution, with Samuel Levy, Jean Pasternak and Michael Birnberg voting no. The board came back and unamimously supported another resolution that for charters to have voter approval.
Check Patch later for other news out of the meeting.