UPDATED: This story has been updated to included comments made in response to this story. The comments appear at the bottom.
East Brunswick Patch readers seem to agree, the public should vote on a charter school before it’s approved.
, readers voted 176 to 19 to allow comminities to have their say regarding new charter schools.
The question was in response to recent actions by the Township Council and East Brunswick Board of Education. Both parties approved resolutions last week supporting Assembly Bill 1877, which says that before a charter school is established, it must be approved by the voters at the annual school election.
“Just curious why anyone would not want local control over charter school approvals,” asked a reader named Kelly. “NJ is the only state in the country where only one person in the entire State, Commissioner Cerf, has the authority to open a charter, and yet the local community is forced to pay for it. Charter schools in NJ are being gifted out as political favors, and some of them are CLEARLY not even quality schools. Look at the findings from the Regis Academy lawsuit in South Jersey. Why should a local town be forced to pay for a school that isn't even as good as the schools in that town, and drain resources from the towns public schools forcing programs to be cut and fees to go up?”
The subject is a sensitive one in East Brunswick, which has a charter school of its own. The , a Hebrew dual language school, was approved by former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler and opened in September 2010.
According to East Brunswick School Business Administrator Bernardo Giuliana, the district was originally expected to pay $1.337 million to help fund Hatikvah 2012-11. However, that number was changed to $657,000. For 2012, the district budgeted $1.159 million, not including $115,000 for transportation costs. The district also had to pay $51,120 for several students to attend other charter schools. For the upcoming school year, the district has tentatively budgeted $1.747 million for an anticipated 153 students, according to Giuliana.
Another Patch reader, Rob, thinks the bill is a good idea. He also said schools such as Hatikvah are only serving a small segment of the community.
“This would make sense. In places where people want charters, they should have it. In places where charters are a complete joke, like Hatikvah, they should have the right to block it,” he said. “Do we really need an entire school so that Jewish families can use public money to replace private, personally paid for Hebrew lessons? If enough people in town supported that and voted it through, I'd be happy to admit I'm in the minority and agree that people think it's better for our town to have a Hebrew school. But, until that happens I think the Jewish families just found a way to avoid paying for their own Hebrew lessons and found a way to milk the system to make the rest of us pay for it. If it was really just about Hebrew and they had that much support, it would have been pushed through with the BOE and taught as a foreign language in the public schools like the rest of the foreign languages. All I'm asking is that we get Bill 1877 through and then let the chips fall where they may on all charters. If the people get a fair vote and get to decide, nobody really has a right to argue either way.”
However, another poster, Stacy, calls Rob's comments anti-semetic. She also said that new charter schools to receive voter approval could mean the end of any new charter schools.
"Charter schools offer an excellent opportunity for educators to experiment with different types of pedagogical approaches. To me, the appeal of Hatikvah was not the language immersion, although I think it's terrific. To me the appeal was the emphasis on inquiry based learning," said Stacy.
For her full comments, see the comments section of this story.