Monday, September 16, 2013

Hebrew Immersion Charter Cheerleader Doesn't Seem To Think Hatikvah Is a "Government" School

I got a comment on a post I wrote about the impact the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School in East Brunswick has had on my district. I thought the comment not only merited a response, but a whole new post. Chime in with your thoughts in the comment section if you're so inclined, and let me and my anonymous friend know who you agree with. 

Here's the comment:

Why not let the money follow the child? If parents want their children to attend language immersion school, a Montessori school, a Core Knowledge school etc, why not let them send their children to whatever school they wish and have their per-pupil spending follow them? 
We have a balkanized education system as it is. Kids who live in East Brunswick go to EB schools, kids who live in Metuchen go to Metuchen schools, kids who live in South Brunswick go to SB schools etc. Let kids choose to go to schools that best fit their interests and personalities and this artificial geographic segregation will diminish. 
If you were so concerned about the financial problems of traditional public schools, you would be more worried about OOD tuition, health care increases, and staff salaries that increase faster than 2%. Some of those kids getting OOD placements may have severe conditions like autism, but not all of them do. If you look at what schools kids are being placed at, you will see that many of them specialize in educating kids with ADD.
Focusing on charter schools just makes you look like an ideologue. You were brought up with education delivered in a certain way (ie, by the govt) and you cannot imagine it delivered differently. 
Opposing a charter school because it "siphons money away from public schools" is like opposing using Pell grants at private colleges "because they siphon money away from Rutgers." You want to defund and close Hatikvah. Great. Do you favor defunding and closing Drew, Seton Hall, Centenary College too? 

And here's my response:

If a special education child's needs can not be served in district, it is that child's right under NJ state law to receive an out of district (OOD) placement.

There is no comparable right to a boutique education for non-special ed children. But you are correct, OOD placements can be very costly for a district. This is only one reason district spending will always be far higher than charter spending per pupil. If a child has a level of need that rises to an OOD placement, the financial burden will always fall on the district, not a charter.

Public schools must serve ALL children who walk through their doors, unlike a charter which only has to serve a limited number of children, and none with special needs great enough to warrant the kind of services you mention.

As to your argument about Pell grants and Drew vs. Rutgers, I see this as equally flawed. College tuition is the responsibility of the student, not the state.  If a student chooses to go to Drew, Rutgers does not have to pay that student's tuition out of their budget. And similarly, if that students gets a Pell grant, it comes out of US Department of Education funds, not local funds. If a Highland Park parent decides not to make use of the excellent public schools in our district and instead chooses Hatikvah, that money comes directly out of our budget. So where is the comparison and how is your argument relevant?

I am not worried about staff salaries. Teachers are professionals and should be compensated as such, with health benefits and pensions.

I never said I want to defund and close Hatikvah, but I don't think district schools should pay for the boutique education of a small number of children. If you want Hebrew immersion for your child, I think you should pay for it. It's that simple. And I am FAR from alone in this belief. 

Call me an ideologue if you wish, but I see myself as more of a pragmatist. Districts have limited resources, and I don't think charters are an expense the state should force a district to bear.

I've looked at Highland Park's budget, and have heard an independent auditor review it. Guess which cost is growing faster than any other?  

Yeah, that would be our charter school budget. 

In fact, Hatikvah's per pupil rate increased 18% from last year, while our district is held to a 2% cap and the state continues to under fund the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), which just so happens to be the law in this state.

And for the record, Hatikvah children are receiving a "government" education.  Funny that you seem to feel that this is not the case. Now sure, Hatikvah gets lots of private funds, mostly from the Hebrew Charter School Center, and receives very little interference or oversight from the state, but last time I checked charters are supposed to be "public" ie. "government" schools. 

But we all know that's not really the case, don't we?

Silly ideologue, you think charters are public schools? 


  1. Funny, I've always thought supporting charters, to the detriment of the greater community, make one look a like an ideologue. As Darcie very simply explains, charters take public money directly out of the local districts. It puts public money in to private hands. That's not ok - no matter what your charter stands for.

    I will also say I am continually appalled at how little the general public knows about special ed funding, but they're happy to flap it about as banner to poor spending choices.

  2. Referring to public schools as "government schools" is part of a strategy employed Dick DeVos and the Heritage Foundation.

    "Dick DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools." (From:

    Did this woman really come on your site pushing Heritage Foundation lingo and have the nerve to call *you* an ideologue? Wow!

  3. As a former administrator in East Brunswick, I know that this school was taken to court by the district with a lot of good evidence that it was not following what it stated in its application. The district lost the case. There is already a Jewish school in East Brunswick but it's private and costs money. Better to get a free Jewish (sorry, Hebrew) education on the taxpayers' dollar. East Brunswick is an outstanding school district with eight Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. There is no need for a charter school in this town.

  4. Tom, the Jewish Day School in East Brunswick actually closed this years. It seems parents preferred the free version.

  5. I am a public school special education teacher. The students who are sent OOD for placement have intense special needs that districts are unable to address. The students I have known who have been placed out of district would have been ill served by staying in district. Districts do not make this choice frivilously. We special education teachers in districts teach children with a wide range of issues - ADHD being one of the more mild issues. Emotionally disturbed children, children on the autism spectrum, multiply disabled children and so on all have a home in local public schools. Please anonymous poster, don't scapegoat the families who need OOD placements so their children's needs might be met.

  6. Damn, I have smart readers! Kudos, folks!

  7. So is Mother Crusader willing to implement a law, declaring that non-charter public schools MAY NOT accept moneys that didn't come from their taxpayer allocation? Or is she merely jealous and envious because THOSE public schools DO NOT ATTRACT putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is admiration?

    2010/11 Students enrolled at Hatikvah = 96. Total Spending Per Pupil: $14,122
    2011/12 Students enrolled at Hatikvah =146. Total Spending Per Pupil: $12,611
    Student enrollment at Hatikvah went up 34% from the 2010/11 school year.

    "In fact, Hatikvah's per pupil rate increased 18% from last year..."
    POP QUIZ Time!! $14122 + 18% = ____ (hint it is $16,663, NOT $12,611)

    Let's compare Highland Park:
    Total Spending Per Pupil
    2010-11 Costs Amount per Pupil: $20,120
    2011-12 Costs Amount per Pupil: $20,172

    Oh my..

    "If a child has a level of need that rises to an OOD placement, the financial burden will always fall on the district, not a charter."

    If a child has a level of need that rises to an OOD placement, the financial burden will always fall on the TAXPAYER. Public school districts do not have their own money. Public school districts have per pupil funding collected through taxes.



    1. Hi again POP QUIZ!!

      What exactly is your point about the enrollment increase? The increase in enrollment from year to year is because in their first four years most charters add one grade per year. Hatikvah started K-2 and has added one grade per year, so they are now K-5. This is spelled out in their charter, and has nothing to do with demand.

      And once again, regarding the per pupil numbers you're just flat out wrong. I was talking about the amount Highland Park pays to Hatikvah per pupil. Sorry if I wasn't clear. Allow me to illustrate:

      FY 12-13 $164,081 for 13 students = 12,621 per pupil
      FY 13-14 $298,584 for 20 students = 14,929 per pupil.

      See, HP’s per-pupil amount increased over 18%.

      Geez, this is getting kind of embarrassing for you POP QUIZ!!...

      And again, here's my response to the equally faulty OOD argument you insist on making all over my blog:

      And don't twist my words. What I mean by the district footing the bill is that OOD placements can cause upwards of $50,000. That money comes out of the district budget and can total hundreds of thousands of dollars. A charter will never serve those children and will never incur that expense. It doesn't take an accounting degree to understand that this will raise the cost per pupil for a district school higher than the cost per pupil at a charter. That was my point.

      HP, up until last year when Christie lured districts into moving elections to November and sticking to a 2% cap, approved our school budget every year. Exactly how do you have the authority to say we spend too much when the TAXPAYERS of this town have approved the expense?