Dr. Toback wrote the following letter posted on the Hoboken Board of Education website. Below a letter responding from the HoLa charter school, Barbara Martinez follows.
Dear Residents, Last week, the HoLa Dual Language Charter School ran a prominent advertisement in the Hoboken Reporter, publicly urging the Hoboken Board of Education to drop a lawsuit. In light of this, it is appropriate for the public to know what is actually happening. (Click title to read more.)
Last week, the HoLa Dual Language Charter School ran a prominent advertisement in the Hoboken Reporter, publicly urging the Hoboken Board of Education to drop a lawsuit. In light of this, it is appropriate for the public to know what is actually happening.
First, there is no lawsuit against HoLa. Instead, the Hoboken Board of Education filed a petition with the Department of Eduction focused primarily on the department’s actions in approving the expansion of HoLa to include seventh and eighth grade. In doing so, the Hoboken Board of Education is following the established procedure by which all disputes involving the New Jersey Department of Education are resolved. The matter will not be part of any trial, but may result in administrative proceedings. Any advancement of the petition is dependent on how the New Jersey Department of Education responds.
Second, the petition is not seeking any kind of monetary damages. Rather, it asks that:
1. The March 5, 2014 renewal and expansion of HoLa be set aside;
2. The Commissioner of Education should reassess granting the renewal and expansion in accordance with New Jersey statutes and the New Jersey Administrative Code, including a comprehensive review of the school, including but not limited to the segregation effect and funding on non-charter school students;
3. The Commissioner of Education should implement a remedial plan to address the issues of funding and segregation within the currently approved grades if a renewal is granted. An expansion should not be granted until a remedial plan has been implemented and proven to be effective; and
4. The petition requests any other relief the Commissioner deems just and equitable.
I believe that most residents, upon reading the petition, will agree that the Department of Education’s decision was not consistent with current state law and must be re-examined.
I must also make clear that the expansion of HoLa will have a significant impact on the children attending the traditional public schools and is therefore a matter of reasonable concern for the trustees of the Hoboken Board of Education. Likewise, the HoLa community should be equally concerned about the actions of the New Jersey Department of Education as those actions only serve to weaken HoLa and the charter school movement in New Jersey. In summary, The Hoboken Board of Education is simply asking for the Commissioner and the New Jersey Department of Education to follow the laws of this state.
All we are asking is for a little peace, love and understanding. And a HoLa-ta moolah. District schools are litigating to stop a two grade charter expansion at HoLa in 2015. No one on either side agrees what that court action actually means. The Hoboken taxpayer is assured of one thing: higher taxes.
Yesterday on Hoboken Patch, Barbara Martinez a full time charter school advocate and HoLa Board President countered Dr. Toback’s letter with the following letter:
Yesterday, our city’s superintendent posted a letter that claimed that there “is no lawsuit against HoLa.” This is factually incorrect.
While the Hoboken Superintendent of Schools posted a copy of the petition against the Department of Education and HoLa, he failed to provide a copy of the Notice of Appeal filed with the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division, by the attorney for the Board of Education on April 14, 2014.
This is most certainly a lawsuit. To call a challenge against a state agency’s determination – a determination ultimately reviewable in the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division, anything less than a lawsuit is unconscionably misleading.
By filing its appeal against the Department of Education and HoLa over our expansion approval, the Hoboken Board of Education set into motion a very expensive litigation process that is costing taxpayers money to prosecute and to defend. The Hoboken Board of Ed trustees voted in March to spend at least $20,000 for litigation costs expressly to try to use legal avenues to stop HoLa students from staying with us until 8th grade, and HoLa must spend its taxpayer funded per-pupil revenue meant for instruction on legal costs instead.
This is a terrible situation for our students and for Hoboken taxpayers and we sincerely hope the Hoboken Board of Education will stop immediately by dropping this expensive lawsuit.
HoLa (Hoboken Dual Language Charter School) is a free, public charter school that went through a rigorous vetting process with the Department of Education to receive approval to expand to become a K-8 school, from a K-6 school. Last month, the World Languages section of the state education department named HoLa a model school for 2014, an incredibly prestigious designation in the state of New Jersey based on our successful results in teaching children in two languages—Spanish and English. Indeed, according to state test results, HoLa ranks in the 99th percentile among our state peer group in academic achievement. (Those tests are taken in English.) All around, we have a very successful public school—that operates on half of the per-pupil taxpayer funding that the Hoboken district operates on.
The Board of Education, by filing its lawsuit, is claiming that HoLa’s expansion will have “a significant impact” on the children attending the district schools.
It is important that residents take a close look at the facts regarding that statement. HoLa’s expansion will have ZERO impact on Hoboken’s school district FY 2015 budget (the budget they are voting on next week). Indeed, the expansion has ZERO impact until FY 2016 because our current 5th graders won’t get to 7th grade until then. Once they do, in FY 2016, the impact that first year is $198,000 (18 students X $11,000 per pupil revenue). By 2018, when we have a full class of 7th and 8th graders, the impact will be less than $500,000. Overall, Hoboken public schools spend $64 million. HoLa’s expansion represents well less than 1% of that. To say that it is HoLa’s expansion—and not the 99% of other costs—that will impact the district defies mathematical logic.
HoLa educates 10% of the public school population in Hoboken, yet only uses 4.6% of the overall public school budget to do so.
Finally, the lawsuit claims that HoLa’s expansion will have a segregative effect on the city’s schools. Because every year we have over 250 applicants for just 44 spots in Kindergarten, HoLa students are subject to a random lottery by state law. HoLa is hopeful that the state will allow us to preference low-income students in next year’s lottery. Even though we are subject to a random lottery, however, our student population demographics mirror the city’s population in terms of poverty status. And, we educate double the percentage of Hispanic students as the city’s overall Hispanic population.
Residents should be very concerned about this lawsuit. On Tuesday, May 6, the Board of Ed will approve an increase to taxpayers of 4% and claim that at least part of that is due to HoLa. Nothing could be further from the truth.