BoE School President: ‘Charters are killing us’

Salon article interview lays out differences and disparate impact claim on Hoboken schools with its charters

Leon Gold, the current BoE President lays out a number of charges taking aim at Hoboken charter schools; the recently approved two grades for seventh and eight grade in the HoLa school are the impetus for his criticism but it hardly ends there.

In Salon, BoE Trustee Gold accuses the charters of “bankrupting” the school district, forcing teacher layoffs and says Mayor Zimmer played a “bad role” in supporting the two grades expanded at HoLa.

Dr. Leon Gold, BoE President was recently re-elected on the Kids First ticket.

He forecasts dire outcomes and casts a wide net of blame for the “segregation effect” increasing in the Hoboken school district.

From the Salon article:

There’s a chart …  the Hoboken demographic composition of charter schools, versus the whole district, that shows the complete adverse impact …

We’re being hurt by increasing white flight from our school system [to charters], and we’re being strangled financially: Because of the [tax] cap that they put on in Jersey, we can’t even pay the amount of money that we will have to pay out from local tax levy, to support the charter school expansion.
And they are actually starving us; we are going to have to engage in layoffs now because of this … Hoboken is this incredible nexus, where everything wrong about charter schools [and] about funding all comes together …
On Mayor Zimmer supporting two added grades for HoLa:
A very poor, bad role …
I just got reelected to the school board, and we were running together. HoLa wanted an expansion, and HoLa wanted our City Council people to write letters, and the mayor. We begged Dawn, “Don’t write a letter” … We have tried to explain to her what the financial impact would be …
On Hoboken charter schools:
I believe that the initial charter schools in Hoboken shook a lot of people up, and I personally had no problem with it. They have just reached a critical mass now, that they’re fostering white flight, and they’re bankrupting us …

Numerical claim:

From 245 to 405 [HoLa students] will eventually be $1,800,000 a year we have to come up with. And remember, a 1 percent tax increase for us is only $300,000. How do you keep under a 2 percent cap with that?

Read the whole Salon article:

Talking Ed Note: It’s unclear how the two grades added for HoLa will lead to the economic outcomes stated in the interview. Will it have an impact on taxes? Yes, but not as dramatic. Charters are paid largely by local taxpayers while the rest of the Hoboken district schools are funded mostly by the State. Those taxpayer dollars are not “owned” by any one school group.

It’s true there’s a disparity in the composition of charters vs. the rest of the Hoboken school district but it’s not segregation. What you have is economic disparities based on one group, highly motivated to identify education choices for their kids versus another group far less motivated and far more likely to qualify for the free lunch program.

What you have in Hoboken is not “white flight” from the Hoboken schools but middle and upper middle class education option seekers. While it was and is politically incorrect to decry single parenthood (recall the TV show Murphy Brown), the reality on the ground is children raised in single parent conditions are far more likely to drop out of school and become involved in crime. This impacts the overall district and it’s an uphill battle even with the clear improvement in Hoboken schools. Education doesn’t begin and end in the classroom. The greatest educational impact comes in the home.

Decrying charters or one charter school won’t change anything. Parents will continue to “vote with their feet” in the words of Ronald Reagan. HoLa had a controversial birth and it became a statistical anomaly where the Old Guard were able to disproportionately get their kids into the school but the other parents who legitimately enrolled via the lottery are sincerely interested in both their children’s and the school’s success. Pointing to one of the three charter schools, in this case a two grade expansion is not going to resolve any larger issue(s).

The Old Guard always “get theirs.”

The last critical element here is how charters are set up in the State. As is, it’s akin to massive unfunded government mandates. The push-pull of rising costs and enrollment is going to hammer Hoboken in the here and now, sooner than later. 

All that is yet to be quantified and one factor will be HoLa expansion. The real question is not it being definitive, MSV believe’s it’s not – but among other factors what the fiscal impact is to the Hoboken taxpayer.

That’s the unsettled area requiring further examination.

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