School Board Opposes Proposed Charter School, Asks State To Deny Application

4-28-16 Meeting - 14

Board of Education president Ed Potosnak said April 28 that another charter school is not necessary in the township.

The Board of Education April 28 went on record as opposing a charter school proposed for Cortelyous Lane.

Alarmed by the steady increase in the amount of taxes needing to be diverted to the handful of charter schools attended by Franklin students – in 2016-17, that figure is estimated to be $9 million – the board approved a resolution stating that it believes the establishment of a third charter school in the township is not necessary.

The resolution also states that the advantages claimed in the charter school application are already provided in township schools.

A group, including the management team of Oak Crest Day Camp and a township resident who in 2005 won “The Apprentice” television program, in March submitted an application with the state to open a charter school in Franklin. The school, to be called Ailanthus Charter School, would be the third charter school in the township and would serve New Brunswick as well as Franklin.

The school would be located in space now occupied by the Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School, which is expected next year to move to a new location on Pierce Street.

If approved, according to the resolution, the charter school would “create undo hardship to the tax paying members of the Franklin Township community” and would “draw resources away from the more than 7,500 students” enrolled in the district.

The board “believes that the application submitted to the Department of Education is flawed in its lack of detail,” according to the resolution, and “has concerns about charter schools increasing ethnic isolation in our township schools.”

The more than $9 million that the township must pay to the six charter schools attended by township students in the 2016-17 school year is a 20 percent increase over the current year’s figure. Interim board secretary James Strimple told the board that the charter school allocation represents about 6 percent of the district’s total budget.

In its resolution, the board also took exception to the charter school group’s inclusion in its application of last year’s PARCC scores, which the group called “woefully low” among economically disadvantaged students.

The state education department has “urged districts not” to use those scores for comparison purposes, according to the resolution.

The board will send its resolution to neighboring districts for their consideration, board president Ed Potosnak said.

“This board has grave concerns about the increasing charter school payments,” Potosnak said. “It seems like the figures are pulled out of thin air.”

Potosnak warned that if charter school payments continue to increase, the district may have to cut programs in the public schools.

“The approval of a third charter school will result in a negative impact on the programs we offer and diminished experiences for our students,” he said.

Board member Latee E. Walton-McCleod said that charter schools do a better job of marketing themselves than do public schools.

“What we need to do is market better,” she said. “We need to open our doors and tell people what we have in our township.”

Board member Julia Presley said the district should do an analysis to find out why parents are sending their children to charter schools and act on those results.

Members of the public were not in favor of the charter school, either.

Lorri Mountainland, president of the Franklin Township Education Association, said the result of “millions more public school dollars leaving our district” would result in staff reductions and cuts in programs.

“The possible negative effects are alarming,” she said. “The last thing Franklin Township needs is another charter school.”

Mayor Phillip Kramer said that the district “has made great strides” in the last few years and is “a district on the rise.”

He said losing more money to charter schools could stifle that progress.

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