Public School Blames Problems on Charter School

Through New Jersey’s charter school legislation, the legislature determined that “the establishment of a charter school program is in the best interests of the students of this State and it is therefore the public policy of the State to encourage and facilitate the development of charter schools.” N.J.S.A 18A: 36A-2. By fall 2001, there was ample evidence that the charter school experiment had met or exceeded expectations, offering students an alternative to the stagnant public system that included, fewer students per teacher, lower student mobility, extended school days and academic years, and greater instructional time. Parents at charter schools express great satisfaction towards the choice that the state legislature has offered them via charter schools.

Unlike public schools, charter schools are held accountable for their operation, and nearly 4% have failed since 1992 when the first charter school was opened. New Jersey inspected its 12 active charter schools in 1997 and placed two on probation, further evidencing that charter schools are held accountable for their conduct and results.

The record on this appeal demonstrates that the Red Bank Charter School, which appellant and certain amici want to shutdown, has “met with significant success both academically and as a dynamic learning community.” This conclusion was echoed by Assistant Commissioner Osowski who wrote the Red Bank principal expressing his support for renewal and expansion.

On appeal, appellants, Red Bank Board, assert that the charter school has had a “segregative effect” and a “disastrous economic impact,” on the public schools.  Appellants argue that its opportunity to respond to the charter school’s application for renewal was insufficient to satisfy due process. This theory is undoubtedly why they have gone to such great lengths to paint this issue in racial terms. Appellants demand a formal hearing, in effect demanding that charter schools be accountable to the school district, even though this charter school’s primary constituency is made up of parents who are dissatisfied with the conduct of that very public school district.

Issue Areas:

Effective Education

Read the Amicus Brief:
Question(s) Presented:

Whether the extension and expansion of the Red Bank Charter School’s charter should stand.

ALF’s Amicus Brief:

In an amicus brief ALF with Excellent Education for Everyone argue that the Monmouth County School District has offered no evidence that charter schools have impacted it’s budget negatively, and has instead made vague due process claims and asserted that charter schools are another form of segregation. These claims are made merely to obfuscate that the thrust of their case is one of statutory interpretation and agency deference, that is: whether New Jersey law requires a particular procedure that is not laid out in the relevant text, or interpreted as a requirement by the New Jersey Board of Education. Appellants make unsupported claims of racism, to invite the judiciary to create a procedural requirement favoring public schools that neither the legislature nor the relevant agency saw fit to create.

Appellants claim that the charter school causes racial imbalances. Specifically that the racial composition of the charter school is not reflective of the population of the  broader population. This ratio is useless, because the general population does not attend charter schools, only school age children do. The ratio of white children to black and hispanic children is 38 to 59 in Red Bank, while the charter school has a ratio of 48 to 49. The district is concerned that not enough white children are enrolling in its schools and blames the charter school for this decline, yet ignores that 20% of the charter school’s enrollment comes from outside the district. Closing down every charter school would not change the trend of a dwindling percentage of white students across the country.

The text of the statute, which does not make the school district arbiter, but rather authorizes the Board of Education, states that charter school admissions policies “seek enrollment of a cross section of the community’s school age population, including racial and academic factors.” This text does not give the school a legal right to make demands about racial conformity statistics. Appellants cite caselaw on the school district’s power to move students between schools. This caselaw is irrelevant. Charter schools are separate entities that do not have the power to move students between them. Nor does the school district have any power of the charter school. The legislature gave parents the right to choose charter schools that conducted themselves in a manner that achieves better outcomes for their students than public schools do. This appeal is simply an attempt by a school district to usurp power over parents who were given liberty to choose. Amici ask this Court to protect the liberty of parents granted by the legislature of New Jersey.



Date Originally Posted: April 15, 2003

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