||Subscribe to our newsletter|
Vol. LXV, No. 44
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Charter school reform is not really our raison dêtre, observed Julia Sass Rubin in a recent interview about the whys and wherefores of the Princeton area Save Our Schools (SOS) association.
Recent discussions about the fate of the proposed Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS), she suggested, have focused attention on that particular aspect of SOSs concerns, but there are others. In addition to charter school law reform, she said, the original impetus for the groups formation in August 2010 was concern over a proposed voucher system, and potential changes in New Jerseys funding formula for schools.
Right now vouchers are at the forefront for the group, which began as six people in someones living room and now includes about 400 members. The local organization is part of the state-wide Save Our Schools movement (see www.saveourschoolsnj.org), which describes itself as a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of parents and other concerned residents who believe that all New Jersey children should have access to a high quality public education.
Grass roots organizations are so rare that people try to find affiliations, said Ms. Sass Rubin, one of the groups founding members. Our schools are in grave danger; thats why we formed.
Concern about changes in New Jerseys funding formula for schools is based on the wish to preserve the current system of using tax dollars from more affluent communities to support schools in poorer districts.
Proposed State legislation for a voucher system has no logic, said Ms. Sass-Rubin. Theyre unregulated and encourage low quality schools.
The experience of other states demonstrates how devastating this would be for New Jerseys public schools, starting with the concentrated poverty districts that would be the first to lose $16,000 in funding for every child that receives a voucher to attend an unregulated private or religious school, notes an SOS position paper. Describing it as an ideological issue, Ms. Sass Rubin said that Princeton voters should be sure to check the SOS New Jersey website before next weeks election, to see where local candidates stand on the voucher question. She was not, however, aware of any support for vouchers in Princeton.
There is, of course, both opposition and support for charter schools in Princeton. We dont have one point of view on charter schools, said Ms. Sass Rubin, noting that some SOS members including herself have children in the Princeton Charter School, which was created in 1997. We probably have members who have submitted applications to PIACS, she added. Our goal is to improve the charter schools.
Currently, charter schools must be approved by the states Department of Education, a process Ms. Sass Rubin described as non-transparent. The state does not reveal the identity of application reviewers, nor do they offer any feedback. This withholding of information makes it look like something is being denied, said Ms. Sass Rubin. In an effort to make the process more transparent and goal-oriented, SOS Princeton is endorsing proposed legislation that would put the question of creating new charter schools to local voters instead. Both Township Committee and Borough Council have endorsed this legislation.
Carlos Perez is in a very similar place, said Ms. Sass Rubin, referring to the current head of the New Jersey Charter School Association. They also feel that charter school legislation isnt working.
While Mr. Perez agreed that greater transparency is needed in the charter school approval process, he said that implementing a public referendum system would be the death knell of charter schools.
We believe that, for the most part, charter schools change kids lives and are a central part of the way we can reform education, said Mr. Perez. We dont believe that theyre a panacea to improve everything, but are an important element. For years the DOE has not effectively done a good job of evaluating, monitoring, and overseeing charter schools; in that sense we believe that the system that supports charter schools is broken. We believe that we do need to reform the way we approve and oversee charter schools and that includes expanding the capacity to oversee them.
Mr. Perez said that he looked forward to having a clear road map in order to put our resources behind developing a great pipeline of schools.
Ms. Sass-Rubin concurred with a recent conversation in which Rebecca Cox and Tim Quinn, Board of Education President and Vice President, emphasized that SOS Princeton has no connection with the Princeton Regional School District. Nor does SOS have a position in the current PIACS lawsuit against the three school districts it hopes to serve. PIACS believes that these offices are using public funds to pay for legal advice that would block their existence.
SOS and School District efforts to keep each other informed about events and opportunities do not link SOS Princeton with any school district, Ms. Sass Rubin reiterated. I know what reality is.
Town Topics® may be purchased on Wednesday mornings at the following locations: Princeton McCaffreys, Coxs, Kiosk (Palmer Square), Krauszers (State Road), Olives, Speedy Mart (State Road), Wawa (University Place); Hopewell Village Express; Rocky Hill Wawa (Route 518); Pennington Pennington Market.
Copyright© Town Topics®, Inc. 2011.