I am writing, as a parent and school board member, in response to a recent application to the State Department of Education for the creation of a fourth charter school in Hoboken.
We are all concerned about our children, passionate about our schools and invested in the community. I believe it is important and healthy for the community to engage in a dialogue about the prospect of creating a new, publicly funded school district as it impacts everyone in Hoboken.
All charters are separate districts; they have their own superintendents, business administrators, support staff, supply contracts, etc. They also have their own boards, often appointed. We all have our own individual goals and budgets for our respective students.
Dr. Toback, Hoboken District Superintendent, met more than once with the proposed charter founders to discuss incorporating their ideas into the public district. At their request, the Curriculum Committee met with “Big Picture Learning” (proposed curriculum). We were informed that “Big Picture Learning” was primarily used for disaffected high school dropouts. The committee felt this was not a match for our students.
Other aspects of the proposals already exist in the public school district: smartboards, individualized, independent math curriculum, FOSS Hands on Science Curriculum, partnerships with Stevens and other universities and the construction of new science labs. We are currently incorporating additional project based elements.
As charters are funded almost exclusively from local tax dollars, the cost of creating a new, publicly funded district (over $1,000,000) can come from two places: the budget allocated for existing Hoboken Public School students or raising the tax levy.
So, one of the greatest impacts would be on students currently attending the Hoboken public schools. Such a reduction of funding could limit the district’s ability to continue to provide a variety of academic and extra-curricular activities that the district families appreciate as part of their child’s education (ex: music, art, chorus, athletics and theater).
Another way to fund a new charter district in Hoboken is to increase the local tax levy (flat for three years), however, not above the state-mandated two percent cap, so a portion would still come from the budget allocated for Hoboken Public School students.
So the question for me was, how do I, as a trustee of the Hoboken Board of Education, with the primary responsibility being the children currently enrolled in the Hoboken public school district, support an expenditure of over $1,000,000 that will not put one penny back into the classroom of those students? Support taking almost $1,400,000 to replicate equipment and curriculum we already offer just to move it to an offsite location requiring an entire new administration, while cutting programs to the kids I am responsible for? The answer was I couldn’t.
I am neither anti-charter nor anti-choice, but I am certainly pro-Hoboken public school system, with a duty to the children and parents in the Hoboken public school district. Therefore I voted to support my superintendent and his Impact Statement.