Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cory Booker on Charter Schools

For too long we've looked at charter schools and traditional public schools as separate. The great thing about Dr. (Clifford) Janey [Newark Superintendent] is he sees them as part of the same system ... that there is not one path but a need for an interwoven set of strategies.
Newark Mayor (and guv-hopeful) Cory Booker in the Star-Ledger

Cory Booker is right: in an ideal world, charters and traditional public schools would be an "interwoven set of strategies," especially in Jersey towns plagued by poverty and educational malaise. But they're not. Instead, public charter schools and public traditional schools in N.J. engage in turf wars over state aid, students, facilities, staff. It's partly due to the NJEA leadership's fear of charter flexibility in regard to teacher compensation, length of work day and work years, and job security -- anathema to the union industrial model which regards teachers as interchangeable cogs on a wheel. It's partly due to the fact that the D.O.E. treats charters like a neglected child, allowing the traditional public schools to only send charters a portion of the cost per pupil (it's supposed to be 90%, it was really 78%, and now under S.F.R.A. it will be less than 65%) and setting up stringent restrictions on growth.

We won't find that finely-woven tapestry until the NJEA leadership and the D.O.E. can get over the us vs. them jingoism that defines the relationship between charters and traditional schools. The writing's on the wall (see this Boston Globe article today on Mayor Thomas Menino's conversion from charter disparager to charter advocate); President Obama's stimulus money for towns that foster charter school growth is a symptom rather than a cause.

Can NJEA whittle away at its entrenched opposition to charters? Can its leadership accept a new era of accountability and performance-based compensation? Can it adjust to a changing landscape? Can the D.O.E. give more than lip service to the advantages of charter schools in some neighborhoods?


Educable said...


I love your blog, and rely upon it for a clear-eyed look into what's really going on in education in NJ. I don't, however, understand your point about SFRA under-funding charters. I run 3 charter schools in Newark and our funding increased by almost 35% under the new formula. I know not every charter had that experience, but I definitely think most of the urban charters benefited from SFRA. I definitely could be wrong, though, and would love to see the data on this.

-Ryan Hill, TEAM Schools

NJ Left Behind said...

Hi, Ryan. I got the data from a piece by Jessani Gordon of the New Jersey Charter Public Schools Association. Here's the url:

I'm glad to hear your 3 charters are doing better under SFRA. Not sure how to account for the discrepancies. Any ideas?

RH said...

There are probably a couple reasons, but the one she cites in the article is that charters don't get adjustment aid - the hold-harmless money the Abbott districts got in order to make SFRA more palatable. So the Abbotts now get SFRA plus some additional extra-formulaic money for an undetermined amount of time. Charters this year are not getting the hold-harmless if SFRA lowered their funding - they're just being funded at the level SFRA would fund a district, minus the 10% haircut the charter law dictates.

So the reason charters aren't getting a "true 90%" is that the districts most charters are in are not only getting SFRA funding. If you believe SFRA is fair, and that 90%-for-charters is fair, then what we're getting is fair.

A far bigger inequity is that charters don't get facilities funding. That takes out 10-15% of the budgets of most charter schools, and sometimes considerably more. Districts, of course, get their buildings for free.