New York Times Looks at Charter Schools in Suburbia

'Charter School Battle Shifts to Affluent Suburbs' examines tensions in top-performing affluent school districts.

The tension over charter schools is the focus of a Sunday New York Times article on the shift of the debate to "affluent suburbs."

The story features the who started to block approval of so-called "boutique" charter schools many say will drain resources from already successful school districts.

As Patch readers know, the story has been unfolding in the suburbs for months. In Millburn and Livingston, parents have collected about 800 signatures to to deny the applications of two Mandarin-language immersion schools. Last month, ljoined Millburn and protestors from other suburban school districts in a “Save Our Schools” .

Sen. Richard Codey told the crowd that the fight over charter schools is a “watershed moment” in education. Codey said if ike the Mandarin-immersion charter schools proposed for Livingston, Millburn and neighboring districts are approved, the “the domino effect would be mind boggling.”

The issue caught the interest of the New York Times, which on Sunday carried a front page story, on the debate in the suburbs of Jersey.

The Times reports on issue being played out in suburbs around the country, focusing mainly on the battle over — which could start in 2012 with kindergarten through second-grade students drawn from Livingston, Millburn, Maplewood, South Orange, West Orange and Union. The applications have and prompted calls for to require l to open charter schools.

Millburn Parents Against Charter Schools' leader and Millburn Superintendent of Schools are featured in the Times story. The NJ Department of Education is expected to this September.

In its report, The Times also looked at the situation in other states, including Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia and Maryland and Virginia.

Jutta Gassner-Snyder, ’s lead applicant, tells the Times: “This is not just about the education of my child. If we just sit back and let school districts decide what they want to do without taking into account global economic trends, as a nation, we all lose.”

Read the entire story in The New York Times: Charter School Battle Shifts to Affluent Suburbs; July 16, 2011.

Susan1 July 18, 2011 at 01:32 AM
What a poor article. It was a one-sided piece that made minimal effort to identify and clarify the objections and controversy.
Pucci July 18, 2011 at 01:42 AM
Susan, I respectfully disagree. I actually thought the story was balanced, presenting both sides of the argument.
Susan1 July 18, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Sorry, Pucci; you still don't convince me. They quoted two people speaking against charters - Dr. Crisfield and Matt Stewart. They quoted at least four supporters: two founders of charters, a charter school operator, and an agency that supports charters in DC (sounds like a lobby). Charter school proponents are identified as "educators and entrepreneurs" trying to bring "choice" to school districts. Opponents are identified as "detractors." And I just loved the tell-tale quote by Jutta Gassner-Snyder: “If we just sit back and let school districts decide what they want to do without taking into account global economic trends, as a nation, we all lose.” This is the founders' goal: to take away the decision-making power of local school districts and hand control over to a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals who think they know what's best for our kids.
KLF July 18, 2011 at 02:54 AM
It was a quick-and-dirty article. Just scratched the surface. She didn't report it out.
Pucci July 18, 2011 at 04:47 AM
I didn't expect to change your mind. I know that you have a very strong opinion on this issue. The article simply stated the arguments of both sides. Do you think that the Newark school board should decide whether or not to "allow" charter schools in Newark? Why is Millburn different (or the same)? Is there a role for charter schools anywhere in NJ? What are the criteria for that determination? Should we leave the decision up to the BOE? parents? politicians? NJEA? This is a complicated issue that challenges our personal viewpoints. It is a very important discussion.
Susan1 July 18, 2011 at 11:47 AM
You raised some excellent questions and I agree with you that they are the crux of the debate. My general thoughts are that yes, there is a place for charters in NJ, where local districts are failing to educate students to a sufficient degree (yeah, i know that would require establishing some complex criteria.) I do want to see local approval of charters; my understanding is that parents embrace them in poorly-performing districts, so I disagree with the folks who say local vote will kill charters. I just don't see a role for them in districts where the public schools are doing their job. And the criteria for THAT could use some codifying as well.
Steph1963 July 18, 2011 at 02:41 PM
I agree with KLF and Susan1. She really didn't elaborate on the monetary consequences of students leaving the school district. Only had one general quote from Dr. Crisfield about that particular issue.
Matt Stewart July 18, 2011 at 02:53 PM
I spoke to the reporter for almost an hour...she was curious, thorough, and professional. This is not an opinion piece...just summary. And, as always, Editors limit the word count. All told, I thought the result was fair and that she quoted me correctly and accurately...judging by the readers comments posted tothe NY Times site, most readers understand the rub points...which, in the end, tends to boil-down to the finite sources of funding for public education and how they should be allocated, and by whom.
G. Anderson July 18, 2011 at 05:14 PM
This article was just that: a summary of the trend. It doesn't matter the quantity of people that were interviewed for the pro or anti sides of the argument; rather the quality of his/her point of view and I think each person(s) POV was expressed without bias. I'm certainly not a proponent of these "boutique" charter schools however they do bring up a cogent question: "if we just sit back and let school districts decide.." Currently, our Superintendent and BOE have opted to modify the world languages program in the K-5 level. This was announced in May and 3 mos. later, we have not heard anything definitive. If we are for a progressive and robust public schools that address the needs of the masses, shouldn't we all be concerned about programs such as world languages/technology that "keeps up" with the every changing world or are we just a town that wants good test scores to maintain our rankings and property value? Are we evolving or maintaining and where does that put us in the long run?
M OKeef July 18, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Pucci, You raise good questions. I think local taxpayers -- wherever -- in NJ should decide if they want to support charter schools with their tax dollars. Sure there could be a positive role for charters but why should taxpayers have to abdicate all oversight as the law is currently written? Consider, if a school district could sponsor a charter lab school to pilot a program the community would have oversight; avoid the inefficiencies of extra administrative expenses and also be assured that the school creators would be professionally qualified to run a school. Under those circumstances I might be very happy to support even a "boutique" immersion pilot program.
Susan1 July 19, 2011 at 12:04 AM
One key clarification: our superintendent and BOE did not "[opt] to modify the world languages program...". They were forced to cut the program and staff under duress (state aid cuts) and have been desperately trying to come up with alternatives that won't cost more $. Budget cuts don't provide for "progressive and robust public schools" and allocating desperately needed money for charters will only make the situation worse.
Susan1 July 19, 2011 at 12:09 AM
I should add that I like your point about the goal being to evolve, not maintain. However, I have little faith that will happen while Christie is Governor.
G. Anderson July 19, 2011 at 02:00 PM
Susan1: I absolutely agree that Charter Schools are not the answer in certain districts especially districts that are "humming along". However, it still compels one to challenge the status quo and that is the crux of my question. For example, Everyday Math. Both educators as well as students (not all) have questioned the effectiveness yet it is only after more than a decade that we are looking into alternatives. Another example that addresses the budget cuts and effectiveness is the world languages program. Dr. Crisfield had noted that the new technology based program is both cost effective as well as more efficient. Although we have not heard any details it goes to say that perhaps we can possibly do more with less. How good is a school system if we don't continually look to progress even in economic challenged times? Shouldn't we always look to improve and amend if needed or should we only do that when our hands are forced?
Susan1 July 19, 2011 at 02:14 PM
I totally agree with you, and that's where the idea of strategic planning comes in. A number of our BOE members have stated that they see no reason/value in long-term planning, but I disagree. Our district languished under Brodow's tenure with no forward thinking at all. I feel for Dr. Crisfield having to take the reins when the situation is critical. It forces him and the BOE to be reactionary instead of doing the type of strategic thinking you alluded to.
G. Anderson July 19, 2011 at 02:46 PM
I ask these questions not to sway from the topic but because I feel it is the topic. Themed Charter Schools are submitting applications b/c they are challenging the status quo albeit in a very rogue manner - I would like to see it done within our already excellent school system. Themed Charter Schools will only create segregation and duplicate costs in certain districts. If we don't progress with the times, will we see more applications for Charter Schools (math, science etc..)?


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