Suzanne Turner 0

South Orange & Maplewood Families Concerned About Charter Schools

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We urge the Commissioner of Education to reject the applications of the Hua Mei Charter School and the Rita L. Owens Charter School. In addition, we urge the New Jersey Senate to pass Bill 2243 and the New Jersey Assembly to pass Bill 3852 requiring voter approval at the annual school election, or by the board of school estimate, prior to the establishment of a charter school in any district for which funds to support such charter schools will come predominantly from the local tax levy. We ask that the Legislature, Governor, and Commissioner of Education take additional steps to incorporate local voter and elected school board opinion into chartering decisions. South Orange Maplewood School District and other districts face ever increasing budget constraints, given the 2% cap on property tax increases and cost drivers which escalate at a much greater rate. Charter schools will divert funds from our district that will lead to cuts in our current programming, resources, and teaching staff. This could have an extremely negative effect on the 6,500 students our public schools serve. We fully believe that students in some school districts can benefit from charter schools. At the same time, we feel strongly that in a community with schools rated “high performing,” charter schools will cause a severe financial strain without necessarily creating a commensurate benefit. Charter schools by definition can only serve a small number of students. The cost of this limited access opportunity would be too high, given the few students who could be served. The budget and policy decisions of our School District are subject to public discussion and are voted on by our elected representatives on the Board of Education and the Board of School Estimate. If proposed charter schools were subject to the same kind of voter approval and public input, we would be less troubled by the potential drain on our schools’ resources. If the charter schools were funded by state funds, it would also be less troubling. But having local tax dollars diverted to charter schools without any input from the local tax payers has the potential to negatively impact the education of the vast majority of students who will remain in District schools. Although supportive of new educational opportunities, we do not support the current charter school proposals. We therefore urge the Commissioner of Education to reject these applications, and urge our legislators to pass Senate Bill 2243 and Assembly Bill 3852.

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