I believe it is good for the community to discuss the four publicly funded education options in Hoboken. There are two important issues identified among the four district leaders: unfair State funding formula and the segregative effect of the enrollment system. These issues concern everyone in the community who fund all four separate districts. Although I sit on the Board of Education, I am writing as a parent and community member.
I wanted to address a few misconceptions I hear often.
Cost per Pupil (CPP)? It is often claimed that charters spend significantly less per pupil. This is not true. CPP is an overall average. The public school district’s CPP include many costs not incurred by a charter school: Out of district placements, ABA Program, OT, PT, Johns Hopkins and programs associated with a full service high school: guidance department, AP program, athletics and many electives…. to name just a few. All contributing to a higher overall average. Comparing the two averages is simply not appropriate.
In fact, the state acknowledges this when setting the charter funding formula. The state mandates the local public district pay the charter school 90 percent of “general education” costs minus “extraordinary” services, such as special needs, English Language Learners and additional costs for students impacted by poverty. The charters could also receive additional state funding if any of their students were eligible.
The district keeps the 10 percent? Untrue. The state calculates exactly how much a public district pays a charter. There is no additional 10 percent. It is never collected. Local districts do not collect a fee for children they do not educate. The local district does pay more for some of their students as they educate many students the charters do not.
Hoboken charters are like magnet schools? Many believe Hoboken has a “magnet” system, where administrative costs are centralized therefore providing funding for shared educational and co-curricular activities across all schools. Hoboken does not have this type of system. All four districts are completely separate, with separate administrations, separate boards and separate budgets, and therefore all programming is separate too.
It is unfortunate that the state has put Hoboken and other communities in this situation, pitting parents against each other, fighting over limited funds. As a public district parent, I feel just as passionately about my child’s educational resources as any other parent. When funds are diverted and budgets are cut, it is always from the public district students, never the charters. This is true even while public district enrollment is increasing. Charter funding is set by state formula and the public district schools alone will incur any cuts and layoffs. I believe this is unfair and should be changed.
I am hopeful knowing that Dr. Toback has opened the lines of communication with the leadership of the other three districts regarding these and other issues facing all of our students and the community.
We all love our children, our schools and our community and publicly funded schools are an important community conversation.