What do Gov. Phil Murphy and Acting Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan have against public charter schools? More specifically, why are they silent while anti-charter-crusaders at Education Law Center(ELC) promote their factually-flawed argument in State Supreme Court to halt the already-approved expansion of seven public charters in Newark?
That’s the question at the heart of an op-ed today by Harry Lee, President of the New Jersey Public Charter School Association, and Mike Petrilli of Fordham Foundation. They try to reason with Murphy and Allen-McMillan, pointing out that all parents “want a great education for their child” but that quest has been “sidelined” by the myth–recently discredited by none other than ELC-analyst Mark Weber —that public charters, sometimes the only high-quality option for families in Newark who can’t afford private schools, “drain the coffers” of traditional, district-run school. (Weber concluded in his report that charters don’t decrease traditional district funding; in New Jersey, he writes, “higher independent charter market share [was] associated with an increase in state revenue per pupil but not in local revenue per pupil.”
New study conducted by @jerseyjazzman finds that charter schools do NOT drain money from local districts. His study shows that in NJ, an increase in the # of charter students is associated with more state funding per pupil for districts where the charters are located.
— New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association (@NJPCSA) February 9, 2021
Lee and Petrilli also note that Gov. Murphy’s budget allots more than $1.2 billion in state aid to school districts and “much of this new funding flows to the state’s largest urban districts, including Newark, Paterson, Trenton, Camden and Plainfield, where public charter schools have become an integral part of the public education ecosystem.” In Newark specifically, “revenue has increased by $200 million over the last five years…the fiscal situation has actually improved in Newark Public Schools with the growth of charter schools.”
If Education Law Center were true to its stated mission— being “one of the most effective advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the United States”– and Murphy and Allen-McMillan truly want to improve the outcomes of students in some of the state’s most troubled districts, why would they fight the expansion of public schools that produce better results? Why aren’t they listen to the parents of the 8,500 Newark students on wait lists for charter schools? Why won’t they work to provide equal funding for charter schools? In Camden, Lee and Petrilli, point out, public charters get 46% less funding than traditional district schools. Isn’t that the opposite of educational justice?
Nevertheless, studies show that charter schools in Camden and Newark are boosting student achievement. And a growing body of evidence suggests that charter schools also boost the academic achievement of students in traditional public schools. A recent study out of Stanford that focuses on Newark shows that not only can district and charter schools successfully coexist, they can thrive alongside one another.
Ultimately, this data shows that this isn’t a zero-sum game. Supporting public charter schools does not take money away from the children who attend traditional public school districts nor does it hurt children in district schools. We should be working to ensure that every child has the resources they need, no matter what school they attend. In short, let’s support educational opportunity for all children regardless of zip code, family income, race/ethnicity or ability level.