"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

NJ Urban Charter Schools Get 32% Less Than District Schools

As a result of a number of New Jersey court decisions over the past 25 years that are known as the Abbot Decisions, funding discrepancies between poor urban districts and suburban districts have been greatly diminished in New Jersey. Now it would seem that what the Court giveth, the NJ DOE taketh away from children attending the new popular urban chain gang charters.

What, indeed, makes charter schools such a popular choice among neoliberal and neoconservative policymakers, alike, is the fact that they are cheaper, not that they offer any educational benefit over the public schools they would replace. What we get then is the same low quality (or lower) for a much lower price--32% lower in the case of urban charters in NJ. Press release from the Education Law Center in Newark:

Newark, NJ – May 24, 2007

Students in charter schools in New Jersey’s urban or "Abbott" districts receive 32% less to fund the basic or "foundational" education program than their fellow students in district schools, according to a report authored by Montclair University Professor Katrina E. Bulkley. The report also pinpoints the cause of the funding gap: a regulation adopted by the NJ Department of Education that excludes charter school students from receiving the remedies mandated for urban students and schools in the landmark Abbott v. Burke education equity rulings.

The report, which examines funding levels in charter schools serving students from Abbott districts, was released today by ELC.

In addition to the substantial disparity in foundational funding, the report also makes several key findings:

  • More than 80% of NJ charter schools students reside in Abbott districts, and 78% of all charter schools are located in those districts.
  • Abbott Charter schools serve high numbers of poor students and students of color. The percentages are comparable to those found in Abbott district schools.
  • In 2004-05, charter schools received an average of $7,648 in foundational education funding per student, which is approximately $3,650 (or 32%) less per pupil than the "suburban parity" amount required by the Abbott rulings.
  • Abbott charter schools are precluded from seeking additional state aid, based on need, to provide full-day kindergarten, tutoring and other "supplemental", or "at-risk", programs to address the effects of student poverty.

The inequitable treatment of Abbott charter students stems from the refusal of NJDOE to include charter schools under the provisions of the Abbott rulings, which require parity in funding and other programs to ensure urban school children a "thorough and efficient education." The NJDOE’s Abbott regulations explicitly state that, "an Abbott school district shall not include any charter school" N.J.A.C. 6A:10A-1. The Legislature, however, has never sanctioned this exclusion.

To address this funding gap, and ensure all Abbott students – those in district schools and charter schools – receive the funding and other programs to which they are constitutionally entitled, ELC is recommending:

  • The NJDOE immediately remove the charter school exclusion from the Abbott rules, and phase-in Abbott parity funding over the next two years
  • The NJDOE promptly assess the "particularized needs" of Abbott charter schools for preschool, full-day kindergarten, tutoring and other "supplemental" programs, and establish a mechanism to provide adequate funding for those needed programs
  • The Legislature authorize the NJDOE to directly provide funding to charter schools for its students, and eliminate the current requirement that Abbott districts transfer funding to charter schools
  • The NJDOE establish "collaborative networks" of educational leaders in Abbott district schools and charter schools to share data, information and strategies on improving curriculum, instruction and educational outcomes for all Abbott students

Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra
Executive Director
email: dsciarra@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x16

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