Franklin Township: BOE Passes Resolution Calling for Moratorium on Charter Schools

Franklin Township Board of Education Members Credits: Malik A. Lyons
Ed Potasnak Credits: Malik A. Lyons
Patricia Stanley Credits: Malik A. Lyons

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - The district is looking to pause the expansion of charter schools its students attend. 

During the Jan. 26 Board of Education meeting, a resolution was proposed and passed calling for a temporary moratorium on new charter school seats in Middlesex and Somerset counties, as well as the expansion of existing charter schools. 

Members, except for Patricia Stanley, voted to approve resolution A-08 Moratorium on New Charter School Seats in Middlesex and Somerset Counties. Board of Education President Edward Potasnak proposed the resolution and said other boards of education were also considering adopting the resolution. 

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"As far as I am concerned this is a complex issue, and I would like to see all of the schools that are involved get together in one room and discuss," Stanley said. "There is more to this and it is a complex issue, and I think this resolution is just too much."

There are five charter schools in Middlesex and Somerset counties, including two that operate in Franklin Township. Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School (TEECS), and Central Jersey College Prep (CJCP)  and serve students from Franklin, North Brunswick, South Brunswick and New Brunswick.

Ailanthus Charter School is scheduled to open September 2018 and serve students from Franklin and New Brunswick.

The 8,096-student district spent some $9 million sending students to charter schools in this year’s $148 million budget, according to 2016-2017 budget information on the district’s website. That accounts for about 6 percent of the total district spending plan.

The resolution is calling for the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to conduct a full analysis of the potential impact of the expansion of existing and addition of new charter schools in Middlesex and Somerset county and their impact on public schools in their respective districts.

The BOE is requesting the moratorium be imposed until an analysis can be properly completed, and results shared and discussed with the public. 

The resolution also states if the outstanding expansions are granted and Ailanthus is approved, Middlesex and Somerset county would increase charter student seats by 128 percent to 5,283 from the current number of 2,316 students. According to the resolution increased enrollment for charter schools would have a negative impact on public school district funding and could lead to drastic and debilitating cuts throughout the public school district. 

"We are not saying that the ones we have (charter schools) should not continue, what we are saying - they shouldn't have the opportunity to expand until the questions, very serious questions fiscal and student outcome questions are answered," Potasnak said. "That is why this resolution is here today. It is not trying to put us against them... we are in this together."

Resolution A-08 says existing charter schools located in Middlesex and Somerset Counties are already lacking in demand in their own designated communities due to the lack of interest from students who live in the very communities for which the charters were created to serve. 

TEECS and Hatikvah International Academy Charter School (operates in Middlesex county and serves students in East Brunswick) enroll a significantly more segregated student body than any of the resident or non-resident sending districts with respect to race, socioeconomic status and need for special education according to the resolution. 

Meanwhile, CJCP earned the coveted Blue Ribbon award in 2016, according to that school’s CEO, Dr. Namik Sercan. 

In a report named "Exceeding Expectations and Planning for the Future," the school said it has achieved a 100 percent graduation rate for the fifth consecutive year, with 100 percent of graduates going on to four-year colleges and universities.

“With a proven track record of success, Central Jersey College Prep Charter School has raised the bar of what should be expected in public education in the Garden State,” the report said.

In addition, the report said the school was named a “Tier One” school by the NJ DOE, as well as having 65 percent of students taking at least one AP course and 84 percent of students taking at least one college-level course during high school.

According to the Department of Education website, CJCP's student demographics are; 31 percent Black/African-American, 23 percent White, 10 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 34 percent Asian, 1 percent Native American, and 31 percent Economically Disadvantaged. 

The report also said the charter school students did better on the PARCC testing than their peers in each of the sending districts.

That school currently educates 477 students and has 889 new applications for 2017-2018.

According to the report, the school is looking to expand within the township to keep up with the demand and may increase by 96 students if its proposal is accepted.

“Since our founding in 2006, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to prepare a diverse student population from Franklin Township, New Brunswick City, and North Brunswick Township to achieve success at a four-year college or university, and to be thoughtful, contributing members of society,” the report said. 

TEECS and Franklin Township Public schools did not respond to request for comment. 

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