Under New Jersey’s undemocratic charter school law, charter school expansions wreak havoc on districts drawn into expansion plans. Case in point; the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School was only approved to serve students in East Brunswick. Therefore only East Brunswick was notified of Hatikvah’s expansion request, and only East Brunswick is afforded the opportunity to respond to the State regarding the expansion.
Yet currently Hatikvah draws students from an astounding 21 districts in 6 counties; in essence Hatikvah has become a de facto statewide charter school. This leaves 20 districts without a voice in a process that can negatively impact their budget.
Hatikvah’s waiting list reveals that another 16 districts have students awaiting admission, and again, Hatikvah is not required to notify these districts that they may lose funds due to Hatikvah’s expansion plans.
If approved by the state, Hatikvah will add a middle school to their existing K-5 charter to ultimately serve grades K-8. They will also expand from 2 classes per grade to 3 classes per grade (an increase from 50 -75 students). The net effect is that in the next five years Hatikvah will more than double in size.
Education Commissioner Cerf himself has said that a charter should fulfill an “unmet need” in a community.
“I am much more sympathetic to a charter application if there are kids that are not being educated, and the charter applicant makes a credible case that it has a solution that will fill that need.”
Hatikvah has not demonstrated that there is an unmet need in the East Brunswick public schools, and in fact Hatikvah’s curriculum has now “morphed in many ways into a mirror of the curriculum in the eight East Brunswick elementary schools,” according to the East Brunswick School District.
Commissioner Cerf further clarified that an “unmet need means that there are children who are being underserved in terms of their basic educational rights.” Yet Hatikvah is segregating our public schools by taking far fewer Special Education, Limited English Proficient, low-income and minority students than East Brunswick or any other affected district. This not only demonstrates that Hatikvah is not fulfilling an “unmet need” but makes all comparisons between the performance of the charter and the sending districts invalid.
Clearly Hatikvah has become a segregated, boutique charter school.
Commissioner Cerf is the sole decider of whether Hatikvah may expand, forcing our local public schools to turnover additional needed resources to Hatikvah, likely requiring the loss of additional programs and/or staff. Hatikvah cannot be allowed to continue their statewide expansion, to continue to segregate our communities and to continue to usurp scarce district resources.
When viewed from the perspective of what is best for the majority of public school students, there is no justification for this charter school to expand.
Please sign the petition insisting that Commissioner Cerf consider the facts and deny Hatikvah’s request for expansion.
Deny Hatikvah International Academy Charter School's Expansion Request And Stop The Runaway Expansion of Segregating, Boutique New Jersey Charter Schools
I strongly oppose the expansion request submitted to your office on October 15th, 2013 by the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School to add a middle school (grades 6-8) to their existing K-5 elementary school, and to also add an additional 25 students per grade, (an increase from 50 -75 students) essentially doubling the size of the charter in the next five years. I urge you to deny the request for the following reasons, among others:
Hatikvah is not in compliance with its original charter as a school for East Brunswick students.
Hatikvah currently draws students from an astounding 21 districts in six counties. In the first four years of their charter it has become increasingly evident that there is insufficient interest or need in East Brunswick to support the current charter, let alone an expansion thereof. In these short four years Hatikvah has, in essence, become a de facto statewide charter school. Hatikvah’s waiting list also reveals that an additional 16 districts have students awaiting admission, and that a startling 70% of the students on the waiting list are indeed from districts other than East Brunswick.
Hatikvah’s expansion will cause budgetary harm to districts across the state, none of which have any legal standing in this renewal and/or expansion process.
There are currently 20 sending districts given no formal notification of or opportunity to review or comment on Hatikvah’s expansion request, despite the funds they must pay each year to Hatikvah. There are another 16 districts that likely have no idea they are represented on Hatikvah’s waiting list and could be forced to set aside funds as early as this spring as they begin to plan their budgets for next year.
If the expansion is approved, it is all but certain that Hatikvah will be unable to fill the additional seats with students from East Brunswick. An untold number or districts statewide will therefore be unable to properly budget for the potential exodus of students to Hatikvah.
This year two districts were hit hard by the NJDOE’s own inability to accurately project Hatikvah’s student enrollment. South River was told by the state to budget $52,085 for 7 students, but based on actual enrollment must pay Hatikvah $141, 524 for 16 students. Similarly, North Brunswick was told to budget $50,380 for 6 students but was just notified that they must pay $138,315 for 14 students.
This leaves districts all over the state scrambling to reallocate funds long after their budgets are finalized and approved.
Hatikvah does not educate a representative cross section of the student populations from the sending districts.
Hatikvah is segregating sending districts by taking far fewer Special Education, Limited English Proficient, low-income and minority students than East Brunswick or other sending districts. This not only demonstrates that Hatikvah is not fulfilling an “unmet need” but makes all comparisons between the performance of the charter and the sending districts invalid.
For these reasons and more, I urge you to deny Hatikvah’s expansion request. Hatikvah has failed to demonstrate sufficient interest or need in the only district it was approved to serve, and districts around the state can not be expected to lose funds to a charter in which they have no legal standing.
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