The Big Reveal: This is Why the Anti-Choice Crowd Wants to Stop Newark’s Charter School Expansion

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When the New Jersey State Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week that seven public charter schools in Newark could go forward with their long-planned expansions, the anti-choice contingent took it hard–and, in their grief, revealed why they oppose parents having public school options besides traditional districts.

It’s all about the money.

In this new video, Newark Teachers Union Secretary/Treasurer Michael Iovino explains:

To frame it in the simplest language is to look at the students in terms of the dollar amount that they represent for school districts. Obviously each child takes up a seat, that child is in a classroom, that child has a teacher, that child has resources. As these children leave traditional schools and move over to charter schools those dollars go with them so eventually you have less dollars to support the public education side.

That’s true (except for the fact that charters are public): Accordingly to NJ’s school funding formula, the money follows the child. Right now, pre-expansion, parents of 40% of Newark public school students have chosen to enroll their children in charters, in spite of Superintendent Roger Leon’s transparent attempt to create obstacles for parents who make that choice. That means less money in district coffers — which are hardly suffering. Next year Newark Public Schools’ budget willl approach $1.1 billion, a $42 million year-over-year increase.

This makes one prong of Education Law Center’s argument in the lawsuit–that the 2016 approval for expansion didn’t properly factor in the fiscal burden of the district having to send some of its budget to non-district public schools—sort of silly.

Its second prong–that the Commissioner’s approval of the expansion didn’t consider the “segregative impact” of charter schools–is factually wrong. Currently public charters in Newark educate more Black students, Hispanic students, and low-income students than district schools. While special education students are underrepresented, currently they comprise 10,3% of charter enrollment. (There are fewer English-language-learners in charters, but that’s because charters tend to attract more Black families than Hispanic families.)

Newark is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic. Its public schools–both charter and district– are overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic. At the end of the video, Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform and native Newarker, says, “if we want to be serious about integration we have to address the issues of segregation in our local communities.”

But Education Law Center won’t touch that third rail of local control. Why? Because their beef isn’t about segregation. Like Newark Teacher Union’s Iovino says, it’s all about the money.

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