The Role of Unions In NJ’s Charter School WarsOctober 9, 2011
Finnish EnvyOctober 12, 2011
I’m taking a bit of heat in the comments section for my post yesterday (see below) regarding an essential difference among NJ’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program (IPSCP), magnet schools, and charter schools. This difference, commonly unnoted, is that staff in IPSCP and magnet schools must be unionized and charters leave that decision up to the teachers. My point is that some of the opposition to public charter schools in NJ stems from this difference.
Now, to the comments. Let’s clarify. Indeed, local boards of education decide whether or not they want to nominate one or more of the schools within their districts to be a “choice district.” If their application is accepted by the DOE then students from other districts within the county (the sending districts) can enroll in that school (the receiving district). The students’ home districts pay tuition and transportation.
The sending school – i.e., the students’ home district – has no vote in whether or not to allow students to enroll in the receiving district. Just like charter schools.
On to magnet schools. They are indeed run by the county, but there are no “local control measures built in.” The Chosen Board of Freeholders of each county decides whether to sponsor a magnet, without any input from local districts.
For example, check out the State Board of Education Decision in Board of Education of the Ramapo-Indian Hills Regional School District v. Board of Education of the Bergen County Vocational Technical School District. In this decision, dated Sept. 2000, Ramapo-Indian Hills sought a ruling that would not oblige them to pay tuition for students enrolled in the Bergen County magnet school. They’d already been turned down by the Administrative Law Judge and the Commissioner of Education.
The State Board of Education, however, affirmed the decision, citing the precedent of Board of Education Scotch Plains-Fanwood v. Union County Vo-Tech. In that case, the Scotch Plains School Board didn’t want to pay for tuition for its students enrolled in the magnet school in Union County. From the 2000 decision:
We affirm the Commissioner’s determination that operation of the “magnet school” is not contrary to State or federal law…[O]peration of that magnet school does not violate the New Jersey Constitution’s prohibition on using public funds for a private purpose. We also concur with the Commissioner that summary dismissal of the Board’s claim that it operates a program comparable to that offered by Union County Vo-Tech was appropriate… Accordingly, for the reasons stated herein, we affirm the Commissioner’s summary dismissal of the Board’s petition in its entirety.
So, local boards have no control over the costs incurred by their kids attending county magnet schools, exactly like local boards have no control over kids’ attendance at charter schools. By the way, the Board of Chosen Freeholders in Union joined the suit with the magnet, opposing the local district’s request.
Save Our Schools-NJ could demystify its agenda by giving a little more information on its website. Is there a Board of Directors? Who are they? Is the organization a 501(c)3? What’s the organization’s connection to Parents Across America, which is funded by NEA?