Today, charter schools–funded by taxpayer dollars–will send their amateur and professional lobbyists to Trenton to block a bill that would place a moratorium on new charter schools until their impact on traditional public schools can be studied. The bill wouldn’t affect already existing charter schools so these lobbyists are foot soldiers for charter expansion in the take-no-prisoners war of Wall Streeters against traditional public schools. Like other well-financed lobbying organizations, the charter lobby buys its politicians and tries to destroy its critics–because all that counts to the money people behind it is continued expansion. An expansion that robs scarce public money from the neediest children.
The immorality of the charter lobby–here and in New York and throughout the country–is described succinctly in a statement issued today by Save Our Schools–New Jersey, a statewide, pro-public school coalition:
New Jersey charter schools should not grow until they stop segregating by income, special needs status and language proficiency.
The current uncontrolled growth of very segregated charter schools is hurting New Jersey children, particularly in districts with the largest numbers of charter school students.
In aggregate, New Jersey charter schools educate many fewer special needs students, English Language Learners, and very low-income students than those students’ home school districts. As the number of charter school students increases, this segregation worsens, concentrating the more expensive and challenging to educate students in the district schools, without the funding necessary to provide them with a high quality education.
In Newark, for example, only 8.5% of the students who attended charter schools in 2014-15 had special needs versus 18% of the students in the district. Only 1% of charter school students were English Language Learners versus 11% for the district. Even the very low-income students are concentrated in the district, with 76% of Newark public school students eligible for Free lunch versus 71% of charter school students.
Some charter schools are even more segregated than these percentages suggest. North Star/Uncommon, for example, educated lower percentages of special needs and Free Lunch eligible students than Newark charter schools as a whole, and North Star has ZERO English Language Learners.
Only 3% of Robert Treat Charter School students had special needs; only 1% were English Language Learners; and only 56% were Free Lunch eligible.
North Star/Uncommon actually visibly sheds the more challenging students as the year progresses.
State Aid summaries show that, between October and June of last year, North Star:
– “lost” 35 low-income students (30 Free & 5 Reduced Price Lunch eligible)
– “lost” 9 special needs students
even as North Star’s total number of K-12 students grew by 18.
As these more expensive to educate students leave charter schools like North Star and return to their district schools, additional resources are needed to pay for their education. However, those resources are instead being diverted to feed the growth of charter schools.
That is immoral!