Today’s SBOE hearing turnout begs two essential questions: What stake do those who oppose charter schools have in their opposition? Would any parent, if given the choice, leave their child to attend a school that does not serve their needs?
Families self-select to attend public charter schools. If a parent wants to have their child attend a charter school, they enroll or apply to the lottery. That is self-selection. Public charters do not operate like selective public schools, i.e.: magnet schools, and do not require aptitude or other screening exams for entrance.
Second, it is important to look at charters much in the same way we look at districts: as parts of a whole that cannot be isolated. For instance, the argument being made is that a charter school, which serves 200-500 students does not look like a district serving over 7,000 students. And in some cases, that is true, but if you look at any of the individual schools in the district and compare them to the larger district number, you will find that they too do not look just like the district. Keep in mind, neither of these examinations take into account the number of school-aged students attending private schools. Case in point, in Franklin Twp, the district serves 7.8% ELL as a whole. However, if you look at individual schools, Conerly Road School serves an ELL population of 1.9%, whereas Sampson G Smith School serves 35.7% ELL students. This is a tremendous disparity within a district that is consistently overlooked.
At the end of the day, one fact remains clear: New Jersey’s public charter schools serve every child and do so while achieving strong academic outcomes for students. The proposed regulations do not undermine this ultimate goal of serving students. Rather, the proposed regulations support the charter community’s shared efforts to ensure that high-quality opportunities remain an available and viable option for every student in NJ’s urban centers. Furthermore, the proposed regulations ensure that high-stakes accountability and transparency are central to the operation of NJ’s public charter schools. As long as parents continue to select high-quality educational alternatives to their mandated district schools, New Jersey’s public charter schools will continue to be in high demand.