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.