In today’s Star-Ledger Bob Braun allows himself to be led by the nose as he swoons under the thrall of the anti-voucher and anti-charter school lobbying group Save Our Schools-NJ. Maybe the heat on this hot Thursday is getting to him. Or maybe the fact-checker at the Ledger is on vacation. No matter. Happy to step up.
Here are a few corrections.
There are some differences, of course: charter schools don’t get any state help with facilities and don’t receive the full per pupil cost. (The traditional districts keeps at least 10%. For what? Shipping and handling? Is NJN being taken over by QVC?)
- Braun’s description of the various bills associated with school choice as “the school privatization wars” is either deliberately obtuse or just plain ignorant. Charter schools, for anyone who’s counting, are public schools, subject to oversight from the DOE and (according to one of those bills just passed by the Assembly) charged with complying with regulations written for, well, all the other public schools out there.
Other differences include no requirement that charter schools hire unionized teachers, or comply with other state statutes like closing schools down for two days in the beginning of November so that teachers can go to the NJEA convention in Atlantic City (or not). Perhaps that accounts for SOS-NJ's affiliation with NEA.
Really? We're the only state without a charter school cap? Here’s a list for your edification. While there are some states with caps – Alaska, for instance, no doubt a governance we all aspire to – many states have none. While we’re in fact-checking mode, note that the only other state in our glorious union that subjects new charters to a community vote is New Hampshire. And funding for charter schools in every state that has them comes from local tax dollars, just like regular public schools.
- Braun quotes a spokeswoman for SOS-NJ, who tells him, "New Jersey is the only state in the country that sets no limits on the number of new charter schools, leaves local communities completely out of the decision-making process regarding which new charter schools get authorized, and yet expects the funding for those schools to come out of local public school budgets."
No bill specifies who pays for the special election. Maybe we get to vote on that too.
- Braun then takes note of “the reform’s success in the Assembly.” By that he means, I suppose, that the Assembly passed the package of four bills. That may have less to do with Assembly expediency and more to do with poor reading skills or a high tolerance for lack of logic. For example, one of the four bills (a fine bill, by the way) allows the State DOE to appoint up to three colleges or universities who will have the say-so on which charters get a thumbs-up. But hold that thought: another bill in the 4-part package subjects each charter to a local vote. This means that an aspiring charter school must now mount a marketing campaign to combat efforts by the local traditional district (loathe to lose tuition) and the local chapter of the NJEA (loathe to lose unionized jobs). Fair? You tell me.
- But wait, there’s more. Braun writes,
The most significant victory of anti-privatization forces, however, did not occur in the Legislature. A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll found overwhelming support — a 73 percent to 23 percent margin — for local control of charter school spending. It showed Republicans and Democrats alike, urban and suburban, residents with children at home and without, men and women — all believe local residents should vote on whether they want to divert money from local school budgets to support charter schools.That Rutgers-Eagleton poll, by the way, canvassed a grand total of 386 people. Were charter schools defined by the canvassers as “those blood-sucking arthropods that leech money and brains from the bank accounts of helpless school districts?” Unclear to me, or at least as unclear as whether 386 people is a representative sampling of our great and populous state.
There's been a lot of heat generated by NJ's struggle to resolve competing interests within these charter school squabbles. At the very least, let's keep our facts straight.
Labels: charter schools, NEA