|On the chopping block?|
Yesterday Da Horsey wrote this:
"There's valid arguments made on both sides but one striking factor is clear from the proponents of the new charter. There's little or no concern on the impact to the vast majority of district students in creating a new charter to benefit themselves."
That's what GA calls the elephant in the room: the impact on Hoboken Public school students.
Some (not all) of those supporting a new district acknowledge the elephant, but say that numbers march from one balance sheet onto another ("the money follows the child") and no one gets hurt.
Is that true? What is the impact of a new charter on the Hoboken public schools?
To answer those questions, we need a person who is knowledgeable and objective- with no interest in the outcome- political or otherwise.
Enter retired Hoboken B.A. Robert Davis.
For those who don't want to watch the 12-minute video of his comments at the May 8th BoE meeting, I'll summarize for you.
Davis served as the Assistant Commissioner of Finance to NJ Governor Florio in 1993-1994 and then was asked to stay on by Governor Whitman.
Davis was part of the team who created charters in NJ. The creation of charters was prompted by these state takeovers:
- 1989- Jersey City Public Schools
- 1991- Patterson Public School System
- 1995- Newark Public School System
Or as he put is: "Charters were founded in New Jersey in the context of meeting the educational needs of kids in Newark, Patterson, and Jersey City".
Davis compared charters in Hoboken to magnet schools in Montclair where "each parent feels the school is meeting the unique needs of what they think their child should have as a program".
Davis feels that in Hoboken, the notion of a Charter school- a political solution to meeting the educational needs of poor children who could not afford private school- has morphed into a magnet school model. Here's what he said about Hoboken's charters:
"They are not charter schools, they are magnet schools."
Remember as you watch, Davis was not there as an advocate. He is impartial in this debate.
Partial transcription of former B.A. Davis' remarks on May 8, 2012:
"Whoever said the public schools are not impacted, and the money follows the student, and there's no impact on the public schools, I can tell you that having prepared your last 3 budgets they don't know what they're talking about.
There you go.I prepare a budget for you each year with the expected increases in salaries, supplies, contractors' services- everything if we operated as we did this year. And with that we try to keep the tax levy flat and get the state aid numbers certified and we hope to move from there.The last number I get is the allocation to charter schools.So when the whole budget is developed, go back and look at the document you got.In 2010-11, at the last moment we're told your allocation for charter schools is $4.9 million.This year, at the last moment we were told it's $6 million.Next year's budget we're told at the last minute it's $7.2 million.So now at the last moment my allocation for charter schools has to go up from $6 million to $7.2 million. Those of you on the Finance Committee and I think I met with other Board members separately also, you know that we had to make a lot of adjustments to accommodate that.
The idea that the money moves with the kids is FALSE. For example, 40% of your budget is on support services. Principal's salaries, guidance counselors' salaries, nurse's salaries, utilities, fuel oil, electric light bills, telephone bills... that's 40% of the allocation I can't touch.I can't tell the principal to come in 2 less days because a bunch of kids moved to the Charter schools. I can't turn the heat down in the winter to 60 degrees because we have fewer kids and that 40% of the money went to the Charter schools, so for all intents and purposes, right off the bat I can't touch 40% of that money.The other 60% you have to find out for classroom (piece?), how many teachers do you have to cut if you lose x-amount of pupils.And unless they come in bunches- 25 kids at grade level- you're not going to be able to cut too many teachers.So something DOES have to give.Now it is true I said that we were able to accommodate that the last two years. To lower the total expenditures, to slightly reduce the tax levy, add some staff and add program and accommodate the charter schools significant increases.But keep in mind that was dealing with significant large numbers of retirements, 34 and 36 in reality, that were due to the changes in pension law and those initiatives. You will not have that again.So if you have another year next year and that $7.2 million goes to $8 million or $8.5 million, you WILL be making some cuts.And I guarantee you that.And anybody thinks you don't have to cut the budget, I would welcome them to come in and visit the Business Administrator's office the day after the governor releases the State aid notices and you get the charter school allocation and you've got the budget set up to operate as normal, and then you get told you've got to move a million dollars to the Charter Schools. And you don't want to simply add a million dollars to the tax levy- I don't think.And you're not gonna get the free ride of the retirements again. For sure. As a matter of fact we budgeted only 12 this year. And you know... maybe you'll make it...so, I, I think that's an absolutely fallacious statement that the money moves with the kid.By the way, I would agree with the Charter school people that they're not getting all the funding they need. But that was a political compromise made by the Whitman administration when they desperately wanted the Charter schools to pass and they wanted to take the money from the public schools but in a way that it didn't appear that bad at first. You've got to put that in political context of 1991, 92, 93... cause remember the takeovers were 89, 91 and 95. And that statute was passed in 95.So I urge you to think forward, because the next year it'll be the Montessori people saying "this is what my kid needs', and then it'll be the performing arts people- "this is what my kids needs", maybe ultimately you should close those 10 school buildings and have 10 separate magnets, there are bills being introduced today- they're not moving too fast, that permit parochial schools to move religious imagery and file as a charter school. And you know, as long as they did it in the right way, it would be hard to deny them.The whole thing has morphed from the original intent, to deal with the problems of kids in the urban centers, who were doomed unless they could get some alternative, now morphed into as I sit here and listen to this tonight... we're a town of magnet schools. "My kids needs Gifted and Talented, my kid needs Dual Language"- that's fine. I did 22 years... we had a very successful magnet school program in Montclair, voluntary integration program and it worked fabulously. Iowa scores went from 50% pre and post basic skills went to 90%. No one argues those merits.But be careful.Because if you treat Charter schools like Magnet schools- which is what you're doing- I'll give you 4 ,5 more, parents will keep coming in here... Montessori would be nice to have... a lot of people believe in Montessori education.
Not speaking pro or con. A lot of the facts I heard were true, but food for thought."