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East Brunswick Gets Taken for Granted, Again

Our state legislators have taken up the charter school fight in Highland Park and Edison. Where were they when East Brunswick's was approved?

Our local 18th district legislators, specifically Sen. Barbara Buono and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, are gaining a lot of press lately about their stance on charter schools, specifically in suburban areas. While my personal stance is much more complicated than simply being in favor or against charter schools, as a Councilman, former Board of Education member, and a voter in East Brunswick, I’m more than surprised to see Sen. Buono and Assemblyman Diegnan take the lead on this issue.

You see, here in East Brunswick we went through the same fight that Edison, Highland Park, and countless other suburban districts in the state are now going through when a proposed charter school makes an application to move into the district. The difference between East Brunswick and these other communities though, is that our charter school was approved under the watch of a member of Sen. Buono and Assemblyman Diegnan’s own party, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

Buono and Diegnan have used East Brunswick’s charter school as a model of what’s wrong with the system used to approve charter schools in their press releases and rallies. If you’re a logical individual you might ask, where were they before the charter was approved in East Brunswick, one of the biggest towns in their district? Great question.

Sensing that there were no political points to be scored, our 18th district legislators were silent during the charter review process, and mute to respond or help our community even with the letters we wrote, and the press that this concept generated. Now I read in the newspaper, almost weekly, town hall meetings with which our legislators stand with municipalities from all over the state to throw up roadblocks and assist with the fight to keep a charter school from opening in their communities.

Upon further examination, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised by the sudden reversal and recent chest-beating about how they are there to stand with these towns. While our esteemed legislators are now travelling around the state swearing in members of local governing bodies as far away as Hunterdon and Ocean Counties, writing letters to corporate CEOs that will never be read, and assisting the Highland Park and Edison school districts in their fight to keep charter schools from opening in those communities, I can’t help but wonder what happened to East Brunswick?

Perhaps if Buono and Diegnan had stepped up to the plate for East Brunswick and put the same pressure on the Democratic-appointed Education Commissioner as they have on the Republican appointee, things might be different. Then again, there weren’t any political points to be scored on this issue back in ‘09, nor was there a Governor’s race coming up in the following year, so maybe things wouldn’t have been much different after all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lillian Amelia Droz January 20, 2012 at 03:12 PM
As a staunch Democrat, you have gained my support for now in the future Mr. Hughes. You have at least said publicly what has been said over the past few years in East Brunswick. Our town would have benefited from the increased awareness. And not to speak for him but I believe he was on the School Board when they discussed publicly the charter school and he came out against it. I'm sure half of these comments are supporters of the legislators regardless but from an individual standpoint, Council President Hughes hit the nail right on the head.
Kelly January 20, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Lillian, he did not do exactly what he is accusing our legislators of not doing early enough. The fact that he was on the school board, means that he was aware of the potential problem much earlier than most people, and STILL he did nothing to mobilize people in town or use any party influence. Once Buono and Deignan were alerted to the problem, they sprang to action. I wish I could say the same for Council President Hughes. It seems to me that the Council President is speaking out of both sides of his mouth right now. He doesn't believe Hatikva should have opened. He was aware of the likelihood of this school receiving final approval by his party's appointed Commissioner of Education and yet did little to fight it. And, now he is accusing State level legislators for not protecting our town's interests (his job) soon enough? And, now as Council President, he has the ability to mobilize residents to support a State law to give communities a voice on charter school openings (as they do on new traditional school openings). But, instead of using his new elevated position to fight for us, he'd rather play party politics and point fingers. Put your money where your mouth is, Councilman Hughes, and start using your seat to gain even more momentum for this initiative, and better yet, let your puppet masters in the Republican Party know, that residents of East Brunswick want this bill passed and signed into law!
Deca January 20, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I quite agree with Kelly on this. It has been a long sore spot in this town that the Council has remained quiet on so much in education. Around the state Town Councils have passed resolutions in support of local control for charter school openings, in support of restoring stripped funding, and other issues related to education. Our council could set a fabulous example by speaking up in support of our excellent schools, fighting against drastic cuts in state aid, and stop sending people to the BoE every time they complain that property taxes are too high. We should be in this together.
Jonathan January 11, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Mr. Council President, where did you get your college degree? Where do your kids go to school? Tell us a little about your life experience that has informed your views.
Karl January 11, 2013 at 05:13 PM
This building is appropriate and in a good location. Driving the area it is really clear that there is residential development all around and the few commercial buildings here are quiet. Its not at all like the warehouse space in other parts of town. And if we were so worried as a community about having these activities close to one another what was said when the YMCA build their current building? And for goodness sake, others have pointed out the issues with other East Brunswick schools and consider too that New Brunswick just build their high school on Route 27 and have a grammar school on Jersey ave. Stop wasting tax payer money on these mean spirited fights.

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