JERSEY CITY - Four Jersey City-based charter schools filed petition Tuesday requesting that Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf issue a ruling declaring, among other things, that the city's charter schools are not being properly funded as required by the New Jersey Constitution and state statutes.
The 29-page petition states, "the Jersey City Board of Education is required to pass along to Jersey City charter schools 90 percent per pupil enrolled in the charter school of the Adjustment Aid received by Jersey City district schools."
In other words, charter schools are supposed to receive 90 percent of the per student cost allocated to students in regular public schools. But charter schools in Jersey City sometimes receive as little as 50 percent of the per student costs allocated to other public school students, the schools claim.
Attorneys for the four petitioners - Ethical Community Charter School, Community Charter School, Soaring Heights Charter School, and Golden Door Charter School - point to last year's school funding formulas as evidence that the charters are being short changed.
Attorneys argue that for the 2010-2011 school year, Commissioner Cerf determined that the constitution required a base amount of $9,971 per public school student in Jersey City. However, the city's charter schools receive about $5,521 per pupil, on average.
The petition alleges that the lack of adequate funding is in large part a result of a misinterpretation of statutory language with regard to state Adjustment Aid paid to Jersey City. The petitioners argue that the charters are entitled to receive funding equal to the "base per pupil amount" set by the commissioner and the legislature.
"The current funding formula, as applied to Jersey City's charter schools, is flawed," said Mark A. Berman, one of the lawyers representing the four charter schools. "The filing of this petition is significant because it's the first time Jersey City charter schools have joined together to challenge the inadequacies in the schools funding formula. We expect a ruling from the commissioner that corrects this misinterpretation and remedies this funding inadequacy going forward."
In January, parents of charter school students complained about the funding formula to the Jersey City Council. The council passed a resolution requesting that Gov. Christopher Christie ensure that Jersey City charter schools get the full funding they deserve under state law. - E. Assata Wright