Today the New Jersey Left Behind blog questioned whether charter schools can serve a purpose in successful school districts. The writer was bothered by testimony at the charter school hearings in Trenton, at the Assembly Education Committee, where the school board president from Princeton argued that “regulations should require charter applicants to prove there was a true educational need for their new school, rather than just a desire for it among a select group of parents. She cautioned against the spread of “boutique” charters for studying Hebrew, Mandarin and “the extensive recycling of plastics.” Others made similar arguments.
The NJ Left Behind blogger commented, “In some ways this is a choice between philosophical inconsistency -- limiting school choice for some and not for others -- or the targeting of ed reform resources to those truly in need.”
I will not deny that having a choice of charter schools can be (although not always) a positive thing – in districts where the existing public schools are failing. But of course ed reform resources should be targeted “to those truly in need.” How could it be otherwise? That seems to make basic sense. The fear of high-performing districts is well-founded. If a charter wants to come into Ridgewood, why should our public school students have to give up successful programs in order to support it? Our district is high-performing. Our budget is stretched beyond the limit. We get $0 in state funding, and the 2% tax levy cap means we have to cut just to balance the budget. Our community already sends plenty of income tax dollars to Trenton, where it is redistributed to other districts. It simply would not be fair to siphon additional funds out of our schools, thereby affecting the quality, so that parents could set-up a “boutique” school, for something like Mandarin immersion. NJ Left Behind makes a good point with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “"a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." That sounds about right, especially when the “consistency” is at a level our community is not willing to accept.
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org