Princeton Charter School Files Charter Amendment Request with State, Responds to Superintendent’s Statement

Princeton Charter SchoolThe Board of Trustees of Princeton Charter School petitioned the New Jersey Department of Education on Thursday to implement a weighted lottery that would give a 2-to-1 advantage to economically disadvantaged students. The school also has asked for permission to  add an extra class for grades K-2. The expansion would add 76 new seats at the K-8 school, which is currently authorized to educate 348 children.

Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane issued a statement on Thursday saying the move would drain more funds from the Princeton Public Schools. He estimated that the charter school’s expansion would cost the district $1.4 million a year, and called for the charter school to consolidate with the district as enrollment climbs due to new housing developments like AvalonBay and Merwick-Stanworth.

Paul Josephson, president of the charter school’s board of trustees, said the school’s expansion would alleviate some of the district’s enrollment spike issues and criticized Cochrane for issuing a statement before reviewing the school’s application.

“We appreciate that Superintendent Cochrane agrees that Princeton Charter is an important part of Princeton’s public education system, and that PCS should play an important role in alleviating the fiscal stress the recent enrollment spike will impose on all Princeton taxpayers,” he said. “As he notes, working together we can alleviate all district space needs.”

Josephson said school officials look forward to discussing how the charter school and the Princeton Public Schools can work together to continue providing great public education options for all Princeton children at the lowest cost to taxpayers.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Cochrane decided to issue his statement before he received or we even filed our application. He took a position without even looking at the merits. Let’s also remember the district only identified the enrollment spike in August of this year, and has itself only started to discuss how it will meet those demands,” Josephson said. “Under state law, PCS cannot propose to expand its enrollment to serve the added demand without filing the application by December 1. Now that PCS has filed that application, we can engage in discussions and work with the district to figure out how PCS can be part of the solution.”

Josephson argued there is no financial loss to the Princeton Public Schools, but rather a savings of taxpayer dollars. He also said the Princeton Public School’s annual cost for the enrollment increase is not $1.4 million, which was Cochrane’s estimate for tuition and transportation costs combined.

“This is both factually inaccurate, as the payment to PCS is about $1.1 million, and misleading,” he said. “Our public schools must pay for educating our students, regardless of whether they attend Charter or any of the other public schools in our district.”

Josephson said the charter school educates 8.8 percent of the district’s students for 5.5 percent of the total budget. The charter school spends $15,300 per student, while the district spends $24,000 per student. Expanding the charter school to educate an extra 76 students represents an annual savings of $8,700 per student, for a total of $661,200 in savings to the taxpayers of Princeton, he said.

Cochrane said in his statement on Thursday that the district has fixed costs that are not based on the number of students in a classroom. The district’s class sizes in kindergarten may drop by one or two students, but the changes would not reduce grade populations to the point where the district needs fewer teachers or staff, or less building space. The largest overcrowding issues are at the high school, he said.

Josephson claimed that Cochrane’s conclusion that the Princeton Public Schools will not realize cost savings because of fixed is incorrect.

“Due to the increased number of students in town, PCS is not taking away, children from the other PPS schools, but rather is offering additional openings to meet the increased need for education in our community at a significantly reduced cost,” Josephson said.

“It is plain that the enrollment spike is affecting all grades at PPS, not just the high school, and the district needs both space and new teachers to accommodate it,” he said. “It will continue to grow in the coming months, and will not leave PPS with underemployed teachers or too small classes.”

Josephson cited the following statistics reviewed by the school board in August:

• 88% of the current year increase in PPS enrollment is in K-8 (145 of 163, and 103 of them are in K-5)

• 65% of this increase in enrollment is from Merwick-Stanworth, Avalon Bay, and Copperwood – but less than 1/3 of the Merwick – Stanworth units were occupied in September, and only 10 percent of those in AvalonBay – suggesting we can expect at least another 200 or more new students by next fall as those units are fully occupied.

“Mr. Cochrane stated just in October that to accommodate the growth, the district needs both new space and new teachers,” Josephson said. “Because of far lower overhead, salary cost, and higher teacher contributions towards benefits costs, PCS costs are much lower than those of the district. PCS can much more efficiently serve a significant portion of the new demand.”

Josephson added that the charter school’s expansion plans would have no impact on district transportation costs.

“Any children, including the additional children, have to be bused at district expense by law whether they attend the Princeton Public Schools or Princeton Charter School,” he said. “No additional buses or routes will be needed to serve any new Princeton Charter School students. Most important, the district is already compensated by the state for Princeton Charter School bus service.”

Josephson said the state charter school funding law holds back 10 percent of the district’s per pupil expenditure that would otherwise go to Princeton Charter School for the express purpose of paying for charter student busing and the other fixed district costs. The district retains $500,000 that should otherwise follow the child who enrolls at Princeton charter school, and the Princeton Public Schools would retain another $100,000 that should otherwise follow the children if the expansion is approved, he said.

“That is the deal districts struck when the charter law was passed. It’s just plain wrong to complain now that it costs them more when they are already compensated by law for the fixed stranded costs when a child moves to the Princeton Charter School,” he said.

Josephson said, however, that charter school officials are encouraged that Cochrane agrees that working together, PPS and PCS can solve the space needs for the long term.

“We have invited Mr. Cochrane to meet for just that purpose,” he said.

Charter school officials said the school’s goals include increasing access for economically disadvantaged students, establishing kindergarten as the starting point for all students, and helping address the unanticipated spike in public school demand in Princeton.

“The timing now is perfect for Princeton Charter School to expand and to develop a plan to serve more economically disadvantaged students,”  said Head of School Larry Patton. “The New Jersey Department of Education approved weighted lotteries in December 2015 and the town is experiencing a significant spike in enrollment due to new residential developments coming online.”

Josephson called the plan a win-win for all Princeton taxpayers.

“We can address a recent spike in local enrollment due to new housing developments,” he said. “At the same time, we can improve access to a top notch, vigorous curriculum for all regardless of means by giving families who qualify for free and reduced lunch a much greater chance of being selected through the lottery.”

Charter School officials said the school is committed to closing the achievement gap for all students.

“PCS’s mission includes a directive to address the fact that socioeconomic differences contribute to an achievement gap among economically disadvantaged students,” said Amanda Rose, vice-president of the board of trustees. “The school’s founders, all parents and teachers from Princeton, were adamant that choice in education should not be limited to those with the financial resources to pay for private school.”

Josephson said that despite extensive community outreach, school officials recognize that economically disadvantaged families have been underrepresented in the school compared to Princeton as a whole. Officials hope the weighted lottery will change that.

“Consistent with our mission to address the fact that socioeconomic differences contribute to an achievement gap, and our obligation to seek the enrollment of a cross section of the community to the maximum extent practical, we developed this proposal to address this disparity,” he said.

If the charter school expansion is approved by the state, the implementation would be phased in over two years.The school would implement the weighted lottery in spring 2017 and expand the kindergarten and first grade classes for the 2017-18 academic year, adding the second grade expansion in the 2018-19 academic year. Instead of the 19 spots presently available in kindergarten, the school expects to offer 30 seats.

Increased enrollment would allow the school to fund additional support services for all students, whether they be classified as English language learners, are receiving special education services, or are in need of some additional help to succeed at the highest levels. School officials are currently exploring the development of personalized student plans for entering students to assess each student’s needs and family resources to ensure that the school is providing appropriate support services for each student who enrolls.

The school begins its study of world language in kindergarten, a core element of its charter. Students currently learn French, but the school is considering adding Spanish as well.

Princeton Charter School’s charter was granted in 1997. It was one of the original charter schools in New Jersey. Its lottery is highly competitive, with more than 70 applicants seeking 19 new kindergarten seats each year. The board consists of nine parents elected by the parents and guardians of students enrolled in the school. Its charter was renewed earlier in 2016 for five years.

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  1. Instead of disparaging Charter with factual inaccuracies, Steve Cochrane should be thanking Charter for saving his bacon after failing to notice the coming enrollment spike. As of October he had no place to put hundreds of incoming students; now he’s saying that PCS educating 76 of them (at 2/3 the cost, while PPS gets to keep 10% of PCS’s per-pupil funding) is the end of the world, and PCS should merge with PRS? It’s hard to take seriously any suggestions, let alone condemnations, from PPS when the superintendent’s stated needs flip flop so dramatically.

    1. I still can’t get over the fact that Cochrane asserts that PPS has 13 Kindergartens and relies on a false economies of scale argument to conclude that PPS will only lose 1-2 spots in each class if the 19 new Kindergarteners go over to PCS (there are even more Kindergarteners if you count the 10 others that are non-siblings that attend PCS every year). He then makes the same argument in relationship to grades 1-2 (asserting the move to PCS will not effect needed classroom space because of economies of scale). I am no mathematician, but certainly, it easy to consider the likelihood that if 78? kids going over to PCS, PPS can decrease each of the K-2 classrooms by at least 1 or maybe 2 across its district (keeping the classrooms to current 14-15 kids), and then PPS use that space and its teachers who used to teach these grades, as a way serve newly enrolled kids in grades 3-5 (and even move them to JW for 6-8). I truly don’t understand why this is not an option at least in the short term and something for PPS to consider even as a long-term solution, except that it would make PCS a hero instead of a villain, and deprives PPS of control over the funding that it is obligated by law to send to PCS when Princeton children are enrolled at PCS instead of PPS. Certainly, it would allow PPS to take the time it needs to truly assess its space and resource needs as the new development and construction is completed, even more kids enroll at PPS, and so PPS come up with a plan that manages the situation in a fiscally responsible way, without unnecessary increase to our already very high taxes.

      1. Based on his false economy of scales argument, Cochrane tries to pivot and blame PCS for overcrowding at the High School, which PPS has long failed to adequately address, stating: “The greatest squeeze for space is, and will continue to be, at Princeton High School,” Cochrane said. “The trustees’ proposal not only offers no relief for that, but leaves the district with even less money to maintain its programs, staffing levels and class sizes there. Since the vast majority of PCS students matriculate to Princeton High School, the trustees’ proposal is contrary to the longer-term interests of the PCS students and families that the trustees serve, as it would drain funds from their future high school.” However, Cochrane fails to recognize that the overcrowding at the High School long existed before PCS issued its plan to expand its lower grades, and that the PCS expansion is an obvious release valve which allows PPS to save K-8 resources that are necessary to address overcrowding at the High School or to simply take the time to plan in a fiscally responsible way. Query how PPS would address overcrowding in its K-8 schools if this release valve is not approved by the Department of Education? No doubt, PPS will assert that it needs more classroom space, teachers and resources, bonds etc. and our taxes will go up even higher than they are currently. This is just not an option for my family and many others. Higher taxes will likely either drive out the remaining middle class families in town, and may be the death knell, wiping out any socio economic and racial diversity that remains here — as more middle class families will look to purchase up housing in the John street neighborhood, which is essentially the only remaining neighborhood in Princeton where houses (and taxes) can be purchased at an affordable cost.

        1. You bring up an important point. Is Charter’s assertion that we will bring in up to 200 new elementary students accurate? And if so, does PPS have a plan to handle this influx while also addressing the issues for the middle and high school?

          1. According to PCS’s press release, the numbers you question were sourced from Planet Princeton, so if you have a problem or want to check them, you should contact Planet Princeton directly. Also, I have no reason to believe are inflated given all PPS’s noise about the increase in attendance from new building in town, and need for more school construction and bond to resolve these issues).

            According to Planet Princeton’s quote of PCS’s press release:

            “Josephson cited the following statistics reviewed by the school board in August:

            • 88% of the current year increase in PPS enrollment is in K-8 (145 of 163, and 103 of them are in K-5)

            • 65% of this increase in enrollment is from Merwick-Stanworth, Avalon Bay, and Copperwood – but less than 1/3 of the Merwick – Stanworth units were occupied in September, and only 10 percent of those in AvalonBay – suggesting we can expect at least another 200 or more new students by next fall as those units are fully occupied.”

            According Planet Princeton Articles in September and November of this year, Cochrane’s answer to overcrowding is to rent space on Valley road for a few more years, when PPS will then float another bond in 2018 for more school space/construction, which the District may or may not need if it simply uses the space offered by PCS and stops taking underfunded tuition from Cranbury at the High School (a loss leader of 7K per child, multiplied by 330).

            Cochrane seems to have no problem spending tax payer money to resolve these issues, rather than using the PCS expansion as part of the solution, notwithstanding the fact that the PCS expansion will be paid for by PCS and not Princeton tax payers.

            The PCS expansion at least cuts off some of bleeding caused by the immediate problem of K-5 kids being the majority of the increase in students entering PPS. The expansion will certainly give PPS some much needed time to figure out fiscally responsible ways to cover the rest of the increase in students that will eventually come into school in Princeton and continue to overcrowd the High School, without the necessity of more bonds, unnecessary construction etc.

            If we go with Cochrane’s plan, our taxes increase over the exorbitant amounts we already pay, as Princeton will have pay more annual school debt (currently is about 5 million per year).

            All I’m saying is that PPS has to sharpen its pencil and figure out where the town is bleeding, how many new students will be coming in and figure out a way to take care of all Princeton residents, using the resources that are currently available — by use of the PCS expansion (for which Princeton is not paying), canceling its current loser of send/receive contract with Cranbury (Cranbury pays 17.3 in tuition per student yet it costs 25K per student to educate PPS kids). Before hiring architects (as was proposed by Cochrane in the Planet Princeton November article), PPS should also consider other cost cutting measures to the extent that we will still be able to maintain excellence in education for all Princeton kids.

            I would bet that if these measures are taken, there will be no need for a bond, or new construction, or at the vey least, the amounts spent by PPS in the years to come to handle the increase in student population will be much lower than what it would look like without the fiscally conservative measures.

          2. See my answer below. I hope it answers both your questions and I am glad to continue the discourse.

            1. Forgive me, but my point was not to question your statements, but rather to highlight one point that I feel all of PPS should consider. In Mr Cochrane’s last response, he focused only on the crowding at the high school, but Charter’s proposal brings up other issues he has not addressed since the proposal came out.

    2. All of you need to take up the enrollment spike with Princeton University. Princeton’s President Christopher Eisgruber was one of the highest-earning college president in the country – at $875,925 in SALARY in 2014. And he can’t even speak respectfully to the town council in a meeting… And they don’t pay any taxes for our schools ? The students of their employees are driving a lot of the population growth and they refuse to pay…

  2. It would appear PCS may be the answer in Princeton. I propose we dissolve the school board and allow the staff from PCS to run the district, they have displayed foresight and manage to stay on budget.

    1. Maybe charter supporters will buy that 26 acre property in Riverside & develop it to ensure that our existing, embarrassingly high school tax rate gets sufficient mileage.

      1. I’m not unhappy. 91 million is the current annual budget, you make it sound like it’s all earmarked for expansion. What basics are missing, please be specific. The flexible space is a good idea, if you’re unhappy with the Bosrd, why don’t you run for a seat?

        1. Never mentioned the operating budget you share, in any of my posts. Read again. I was trying to state that over 100 million has already been SPENT on school renovations, new construction, & building updates, in recent years, but PRS is still short on physical space. Regardless, you must be very wealthy or not pay school taxes, because the 91 mill annual operating budget is much larger per pupil than other districts & yet families still complain.

          1. Ah. Thanks for clarifying that. I am not wealthy, never stated a judgement on the size of the budgets or the amount spent, yet you immediately assume that it has no impact on me. I’ve chosen this school district and chosen to pay the higher price for it. Part of that “contract” is I get to vote for the people that make decisions about my taxes. I don’t vote for the Charter board. Apparently there’s a law that prevents them from sharing expansion plans with the public before they submit them to the state. Gotta suck that up, I guess. So no, not wealthy, might have to move, downsize, or get a second job if the local taxes continue to increase.

            1. The Charter board doesn’t make any decisions about your taxes. That is the PPS BoE. You should take it up with them why they find it difficult to function on $24k per attending student PLUS 10% of the money each PCS student is allotted.

              1. As Mike Pence was asked this morning, “Why is it refreshing to make false statements?”

                14. a. The board of trustees of a charter school shall have the authority to decide matters related to the operations of the school including budgeting, curriculum, and operating procedures, subject to the school’s charter.

                Both Boards allocate and spend the taxpayers’ money.

                1. They budget the amount of money they have. They do not get to increase property taxes to increase that budget. PPS does. There’s nothing false about that.

                  1. Take a look at the below article. PPS just jumped over the 2% max tax cap and it voted to increase Princeton taxes by 1.7 million — without a popular vote, based on an expected increase of 100 kids into the PPS school system. Maybe the PPOS vote to increase our taxes is why PPS is trying to avoid sending 78 kids to PCS — as I presume that if PPS uses the expansion as a release value, it will lose the ability to override the tax cap. Of course, if PPS gets rid of the loser contract with Cranbury, it won’t be able to waive the 2% tax increase without a popular vote, until another 330 Princeton kids enter the school system (only at that point can it assert that an increase in student population will allow it to override the cap).

              2. 24K is high and they get out of school in the H.S. at 1 p.m. every Wed.? How can no parent have challenged this? why do we have to outsource our after school care to the Y? Why is there no Suzuki music instruction in the after school program, why don’t they all learn a second language and not be allowed to opt-out of Spanish or studying with Spanish-speaking kids? if we are spending so much? Why do we have only empty kid parks and no dog parks, etc? Really what do they do with the $? That is a fair question to ask… But charter might not be the answer ….

                1. The high school dismissal schedule has even less to do with this topic than Eisgruber’s salary. I fail to see why the school budget should pay for dog parks – in fact, I’m going to bet that’s an issue that most everyone on both sides of the aisle can come together on. You baffle me.

            2. You may have to activate a Plan B soon. Plans to “feather in” more school debt are in the works. A newly elected Board member posting here makes no mention of taxes in his concerns, instead sharing his own Plan B… plasma donations.
              For a long long time, like you, I was wasn’t unhappy. I thought of the super-sized amount I sent to PRS District as a form of community service. When our teachers’ needs were disrespected by the Board, I felt it time to reexamine my blind support. Teachers & guidance counselors, are the folks who molded the uncaring PRS system in a fruitful way for my family. Of all the facets in the PRS system, our teachers didn’t deserve the poor treatment.
              PRS isn’t managed with proper concern for us taxpayers. One example: Princeton taxpayers pay an extra 2 million+ a year to educate Cranbury students in addition to our own. I don’t know what the agreement looks like… I only know that what they pay doesn’t meet what it costs my town to host their kids. Telling Cranbury to use another District in the future would solve our space problem in the high school. Repurposing space & renting trailers in the short term would be wiser, than continuing such bleeds on our resources & starting new projects. And must I add that while I’m working to pay the school tax bill, non-paying University families are saving money & enjoying enriching, quality family time at my expense.
              Really… unless you’re part of the plutocracy that drives policy making in Princeton, you may want to rethink your unacknowledged servitude to this District.

          2. just because SOME families complain does not mean PPS is falling short. people around here have very high standards, often expecting schools to live up to very individual needs, and someone will always be complaining about something.

            1. Princeton resident, I understand & agree with you. Living in Princeton offers resources beyond the school system. Families might want to take the initiative in finding them for their kids before complaining. But, I find it telling that so many apply for the Charter lottery, & think it’s sending a message to the District about needs.

            2. The reason why PPS per student cost is so high is because PPS is paying $5M a year in debt to pay for renovations that were poorly planned. PPS is also charging Cranbury $17.3K for each of the 330 Cranbury HS students, when the cost per student at PPS is 24-25K. A loss leader that has caused incredible overcrowding at the High School. PPS teacher salaries are bloated to say the least, when compared to PCS. And despite the offer of classroom space from K-2 by PCS, Cochrane cannot even consider consolidating PPS Kindergarten classes from 13 to 11 (or similarly decreasing the classrooms in Grades 1-2) so PPS can use that space for the rest of the influx of lower school students caused by new construction in town – and then take the time to come up with a better plan to deal with the increase in students in the district. Instead, PPS would rather float some more bonds, build some more classrooms, and ignore the release valve offered by PCS, thus increasing our already incredibly high taxes. I am personally at a loss.

    2. Why don’t we not educate our kids at all, let Princeton U have everything, not let any of our wives work etc ? LOL

      1. Are you suggesting PCS does not provide education, or were you attempting to respond to some other comment?

  3. Let’s remember we are all neighbors living in charged times, but polarization won’t solve a thing. Articles were written and Mr Cochrane responded before anyone had even reviewed the proposal. And why didn’t Charter reach out to Cochrane to discuss their ideas beforehand? After all, this proposal does clearly impact PPS and Princeton at large, and to ignore that was a mistake. I’m glad to hear both parties say they want to work together now, but it may be too late.

    1. I agree with you on that – it had never occurred to me that the PCS Board wouldn’t have reached out to PPS out of courtesy. I don’t know what the reasoning was there, but I’m sure it will be made clear in coming days. In any event though, I would like Steve Cochrane to clarify what he means about “consolidating” schools, as that was an odd comment to include at the end of such a scathing letter.

      1. Not sure what Mr. Cochran meant by consolidating schools either, except that he goes on to talk about the districts sharing resources, which makes sense to me if that is all possible without PCS being subsumed by the PPS. The reason that PCS works and is so successful, it is it is not controlled by PPS. That doesn’t mean there can’t be more discourse and sharing between the school districts, where it makes sense for the both entities.

        1. “The reason that PCS works and is so successful, it is it is not controlled by PPS.”

          “Not controlled by PPS” is only one side of the coin. Not accountable to PPS and the taxpayers that underwrite, for one example, the three heads of schools salaries totaling $387,000* to administrate 348* kids, is the other. (Since I’ve been challenging other calculations to account for differing grade demographics and other factors, I have asterixed that data so that others can know to adjust it to reflect the right mix of grades vs. comparing to an elementary school of approx same size.)

          In the end, a million numbers can be run and everything could come out in the wash. But at the core, the existence of PCS in and of itself creates a separate and unequal offering purely on the basis of it being underwritten by the same public money (local taxes to a much, much greater degree than state) but not accessible to all students. That lack of access could be due to any factor–the need to limit enrollment (no matter what demographic make-up), the fact that not being a “choice” for any number of kids because parents have assessed it as not the right pedagogical or other fit–they’re really all moot.

          If it fits for your child, and not mine, and your school exists for the reason of “greater control” over its outcomes, then by paying into it, I am paying for you to increase your chances of a better outcome. The deal I struck by paying into the same school system via the same rate structure as you, means that we all have access to the same overall set of teachers, subjects, pedagogies, facilities — not a faux choice between two separate and unequal ones. I’m not paying for two means and types of control, I’m paying for one.

          That said, I know all the above is moot to a degree, because all Charters, including ours, are protected by State Charter law. Doesn’t mean we have to agree with it or assess it as legitimate 20 years from the law’s inception.

          The winds have changed regarding Charter schools, especially in already high-performing, high-cost districts. PCS’ actions in making their plans public at the 11th hour before the amendment application was due into the DOE, and not posting Board meeting minutes since its July 2016 meeting, if purposeful, indicates it expected a head wind. If inadvertent, it created one.

          Either way, the PCS community needs to own that and stop shifting the gaze to PPS for its completely legitimate response, and spreading false information about the work PPS been doing on enrollment growth. And also what appears to be false information regarding Charter law not allowing PCS to share its plans or engage in joint planning with PPS prior to submitting the application. It’s patronizing, it’s demeaning, and, ironically, it’s the most “transparent” communication the school has engaged in thus far in this process.

          1. If we’re talking salaries, Anne, let’s compare what those three people at Charter make vs. the 12 “Key District Personnel” and *only* the principals and vice principals who make over $150k, shall we? Add those up, and you’ll find the total is about $2.7 million. There are many discussions to have about PCS and PPS, but holding out PCS as a waste on salary is nonsense.

          2. What? $387,000* to administrate 348* kids? And how much do the actual teachers earn? Are they in a Union?

            1. All salaries for all PPS and PCS employees are a matter of public record. I think you’ll find your outrage misdirected if you compare salaries and costs of any kind with objective data.

          3. Let’s start with your first point. You complain that PCS is not available to everyone. This weighs in favor of expanding it (even beyond K-8), not the other way around. Essentially, you are making an argument that if your kid or the majority of kids in Princeton can’t have PCS, then PCS shouldn’t exist. Not every kid gets into the Spanish emersion program at CP. Does that mean this innovative and much sought after CP program shouldn’t exist? All the rest of the homeowners in Princeton pay for this program, the swimming pool at JW, libraries in each of the lower schools, middle school sports programs, etc. All services that most of the community doesn’t use, include PCS students. Does that mean these programs and services should be cut…I think not.

            PCS pushes the PPS schools to do better academically, it teaches kids how to be organized and handle an academic work load and rigor so they can reach for the stars (some kids need this kind of push and thrive in it). PCS is an alternative welcomed by many kids and families in our community, who also may need a smaller school middle school, more contact and connection to the administration, etc. Rather than disparage it or wish it away, you should be asking PPS to keep up.

            Second point. PCS is accountable. It is vetted by the State DOE when its charter is renewed every 5 years. PCS’s budget is reviewed by the DOE and posted online just like PPS, for all in the community to see. Its excellent test results are open to the publlc as are the meetings (Though couldn’t tell you why the minutes aren’t up on the website). I can hazard a guess as to why PCS didn’t reach out to PPS for input on whether it should expand, based on your reaction to the proposition.

            I note, however, the PCS was not invited to the table when PPS was considering how to handle the influx of kids into the District in 2014, 2015, and in 2016. PCS was not invited to the table to discuss PPS’s plans to issue bonds and pay more construction for the influx of students that it poorly planned for and would no doubt increase PPS’s school debt, which is currently at 5Million a year. So I really don’t seek why PCS had any obligation to be more courteous towards PPS. But I am glad that communications are opening up between these school districts.

  4. All the residents get to vote for the PPS school board. But only the parents of PCS are allowed to vote for its board. What’s wrong with this picture. PCS gets public money, shouldn’t all the residents get to vote for the PCS school board? Many court cases have ruled that charter schools are private entities taking public money. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that charter schools are not public. From Diane Ravitch: Quote – I describe previous rulings by federal courts and the NLRB that charter schools are “not state actors” in Reign of Error. In a criminal case in California a few years ago, the California Charter School Association entered an amicus brief in defense of charter operators accused of fraud and claimed that charter schools are not subject to the same laws as public schools. They are not state actors.
    The appropriate analogy would be a corporation like Boeing, which works for the government, is funded by the government, but is not a state actor. It is private. End quote

    1. This is New Jersey, not California. No such allegations have ever been asserted against PCS, whose renewal was recently vetting carefully and approved by the New Jersey Department of Education. PCS has never taken the position that it is not a public school or not a state actor. Moreover, I suspect you are misreading the Amicus submitted the California Charter School Association and the NLRB decision so you should feel free to post them, so I can distinguish them roundly.

      1. I am not saying that PCS is not a good school; it’s a good school with devoted and committed parents and staff. But at what price to the district schools where 90% of the kids are educated? PCS can exist because the district does all the heavy lifting; PRS educate more at risk kids with the more serious learning disabilities. What happens when more charter schools open up in Princeton? Even some of the people associated with PCS have admitted that it does not have the same percentages of at risk kids and kids living in poverty. I do not think that the PCS model is replicable on a larger scale. It’s a unique to Princeton phenomenon and it could not take over the whole school district.

        1. Joe – see above. Having grown weary of the argument that PCS is draining resources best used by PRS, I’ve established that special education is already backed out of the $24k/year number. With actual numbers. Unsurprising PPS was not in a rush to provide this calculation, as they had to have known to do so would demolish this rhetorical point.

  5. I sure wish someone could clearly articulate what the actual charter is for the Charter school. All i ever hear about it are vague platitudes which are essentially the same goals as every other school in Princeton. I have read the full charter on the website and I stand by what I have stated.

    1. One of their main missions seems to push kids to be above grade level. Yet this is not really documented to be good for kids and is shown to cause diagnosis of ADHD and overmedication no? of our children no? Why don’t we use this money for decent after school care for kids ? Why is all of our after school programming run and outsourced to the YMCA? Why not pay certified teachers to run music and art and sports after school until 6 p.m with our children. This is what the French do – read Bringing UP Bebe- why do all the kids get out at like 2 p.m. and event he HS kids why are they walking around the neighborhood at 1 p.m. every wed with nothing to do – why are they not in supervised instruction until the end of the workday..

      1. FYI- PPS never dismisses at 1 pm. Early dismissal on Wednesdays (only) is at 1:49 for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. 2:51pm all other days.

        1. Why do they get out at 1:49 Though? Why do they get out at 2:51? What kind of school sends a bunch of teenagers out to wonder the neighborhood at 1:49 on a Wed. ? Has them up and in school at 6 a.m. and out by 1:50 on a weekday? This costs 24K a child? We need after care and appropriate stimulating activities for all our kids from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For what you all are spending.. it is frankly atrocious to see these teenagers wondering the town at 1:50 on a weekday… not speaking a second language… not working.. It is embarrassing…

            1. so they don’t start instruction until after 8 a.m. and they get out of school at 1:50 regularly? Dear me.. have you guys seen how they educate their children in other countries? In Asia and Europe and most other developed countries.. they do not start them after 8 a.m. and send them to wonder the neighborhoods before 2 p.m. with summers off, no second and third language, no everyone not just the most athletic doing a sport all for 24K a kid? – it is worse than I thought…IT is sad to me that you guys don’t see that 8 a.m. to 1:50 is a huge problem for 24K a kid…

              1. With circadian rhythms what they are in teens, they’d be better off doing sports &/or refresher study in the morning, getting to school & starting classes sometime between 11AM – 1PM, ending six hours later, then eating dinner, then studying, then sleeping. School schedules don’t consider the needs of the population being educated, which is a flaw.

                1. This seems OK to me. AT least it seems like closer to innovation in education. There is some interesting research on the 6-hour part of the day – etc. That if you are working well you really don’t need to work more than 6 hours – or say learn new info for that long- say not longer than 6 hours a day-I’m not personally sure about review etc. Also great research on homework as a habit not a 2-3 hour torture session… that is we really need to look at what we value and why and how do right by our collective children and the society …

                  1. Absolutely, but this “cutting edge” Board is highly entrenched in an old model. Imagine how much mileage we’d get out of our school buildings if children attended in varying shifts, based on age, interests, & physical needs.

                    1. I agree with you and appreciate a more robust discussion. We have a lot of buildings we have allowed to decay. Which is a huge no-no since we need them and are going to as taxpayers end up paying for them anyway. Also we should model work and education and learning so allowing children to go to school in such a way that makes it impossible for their parents to work or volunteer or contribute is also a no-no. Education is not just one thing – it is as you say meeting the mental, physical, nutritional needs of our kids and showcasing our collective value of education, work, health, kindness to others etc. respect for all especially those who are different, rules that make sense, the ability say to challange rules t hat don’t make sense.. There is enough money in this particular community for education to be done well – which does mean a variety of things. etc
                      Shifts are great for traffic also and use of resources.

                  2. This is another oft-repeated lie about PCS. I have never, not once, seen my children through 4th grade have more than 30 minutes of homework – and that is a rare exception. Usually it’s just a few minutes to reinforce the day’s lessons. Part of Charter’s mission is to not assign homework as busywork. Where do you get your information from?

          1. Again sounds like you have more complaints against PPS than PCS, I am incredibly confused.

            1. Oh dear – are there not good and bad things about both – I work for neither. The question is if your child is in Charter- why is your child not in private school? Why are you entitled to ‘charter’ but unwilling to pay for private school? In Princeton?

        2. Why are they dismissed at 1:49 on a Wed? Just why? Are they totally educated and fully stimulated by 1:49 on a weekday? Why do they start HS so early and get out to wonder the neighborhoods at 1:50 – on a weekday? What kinds of weird bourgie values are these anyway? Where is the value on education and work and being a productive member of society?

          1. He was talking about early dismissal at the High School…I think that is a different school than PCS…

      2. Cara, I propose you spend some time on Charter’s website, read about its facilities and offerings, and draw some better-informed conclusions. I also suggest you not offer medical advice which you clearly are eminently unqualified to do. As the parent of a child with ADHD and autism, you are both wrong and offensive.

        1. I too am baffled by the ADHD comment. Particularly since more structure is proven as efficacious for lots of children with ADHD…

        2. Pushing the kid above grade level can cause him to be misdiagnosed with ADHD. It is in the NYT all the time.

      3. The after school program you are complaining about is run by the YMCA for PPS. PCS’s after school program is run by teachers and educators. The kids get academic support and after school fun and snacks. Maybe PPS should take a cue from PCS (the whole point of charters generally is to innovate change through example), and start up their own after school program, modeled after the one at PCS. Not sure what kids you are talking about ….PCS lets out at 3:15. Also not sure about the disparaging remark about PCS teaching French. PCS wins awards in French every year, it also offers Spanish and is going to expand Spanish into Kindergarten.

        1. I agree with you. If the Charter school runs a program for after school that is run by the same teachers- or any well trained teachers- such as say a Suzuki trained teacher with a masters and 20 years of experience in instrumental music- or a trained chess instructor – and if these teachers are unionized or paid at least the same or better than PPS this is much better than paying the Y to deal with what the schools the PPS should be dealing with from 3 to 6 p.m. Quality programming for kids from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. of music, sports, chess, art, should be part of our schools. The money is there. If it is not there make Princeton University fix up the Valley Road school and provide it in all our schools. The least they could do. I do agree with you that if this is something the PCS is doing well then push for it in all the schools. Use the charter to build it out district-wide without raising folks taxes and putting an undue burden on folks in the community who do not have kids or are retired etc. Even bringing in a retired teacher would be better than outsourcing the programming to the Y, and underpaying the Y’s workers – while simultaneously stigmatizing the children of working parents when work is in fact the goal for all in the community or should be.
          We can only hope I guess that those teachers at Charter are compensated a fair wage- and not being used as a cost-cutting initiative while the mayor and other town officials pad their pockets by looking the other way on developers and the University
          Shift work in this sense might not be a bad idea as asking a teacher to work 8 to 6 is a lot. Most great private schools have the teachers on shift work – so that the teacher who is providing homework oversight and Suzuki music lessons, chess lessons and sports FOR ALL including autistic kids, is not the same certified, well-paid teacher on duty at 8:45 a.m. Most cultures show more respect for teachers than ours do and not just by throwing money around. But not by union busting and treating the teacher as a slave either. teachers are brought in or put in shifts to execute on the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.time frame to take responsibility for elementary homework etc. to provide stimulating activities to me this IS an innovation of the Charter school. There is no reason for what we pay in taxes and have such poor after care in our public elementary schools and no reason our superintendent and principals feel the local public schools are too good to answer questions from parents about such issues -the superintendent and principals do not respond to emails from parents or taxpayers something that frankly I find shocking and would never go on in a private school. Bc the schools are so overcrowded (we can yes blame Princeton University for this ) the public school principals and superintendent act often like we the community do not have a right to ask questions- and of course this is how we ended up with a charter school in the first place. French is great. I am all for it. We must acknowledge though if we are to really innovate why some parents in our community prefer to pull their children out of great, diverse working public schools where the second language is SPANISH. Why? And why the desperate need for their children speak French vs. Spanish in the United States of America at this time. French is the second language of Canadians. Spanish is the language most spoken in the U.S. at this time. To prove Charter is not a tool to segregate ones children from the children of Latinos in the community the emersion language at Charter should be required Spanish. All the elementary schools should have emersion and a second language should be the goal for most children in the schools with of course some exceptions etc

          1. You are all over the map. Clearly you want a seat at the table, but you need to figure out a way to participate in discussions without making random, wrong proclamations such as schoolwork causes ADHD, or weirdly dictating which foreign languages kids should learn, or completely inaccurately discussing pay and unions; or engaging in classism *yourself* by assuming only the working class uses Y aftercare (we’re not, and we did). It’s also both offensive and clueless to ask why Charter parents feel “entitled” to what some may call, ahem, free and appropriate public education (which the sending district may not provide to the parents’ satisfaction) yet be a proponent of vouchers; there is literally zero intellectual consistency in this argument. It is possible to disagree, even vehemently, about where school tax dollars should go, and still respect a person’s thought process. It is impossible when the thought process involves spouting off whatever thoughts pop into one’s head, as though throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

  6. Prior to enrolling in the Charter School, we often heard it referred to as a “private” school, but never heard exactly what that meant for people. The school is a federally designated nonprofit organization that is free for anyone living in Princeton who is admitted by open lottery. The school does not have the frills of many private schools – no full sports field, no library, no
    kitchen, and parent volunteers serve the kids lunch every day as there are no cafeteria staff. It did, however, have a level of accountability for results since they use public taxpayer dollars.

    Ironically,we accepted admission to the Charter School for our kindergartner only after we
    lost the Community Park lottery for the Spanish immersion program (despite his high fluency in Spanish). After visiting the Charter School, we were impressed by the curriculum, and the kids seemed very engaged in class. We also liked its approach to conflict resolution, and the many places where kids receive homework help during and after school by the very dedicated teachers. As a family of color, we felt welcomed by the parents, staff, and administrators at the school before we even started.

    We are hoping that this presents an opportunity for PCS and the district to have open conversations about each others’ strengths and challenges. There are ways that both schools can share practices and even resources which make the educational experience more meaningful for all of our kids. Perhaps Charter kids can participate in extra-curricular activities at the district and vice versa. There are many opportunities for the kids to meet each other in other activities around town. It’s possible for us to create these opportunities between the schools so they enter PHS with mutual respect.

    The increased K-2 enrollment at the Charter School creates the ability to more faithfully implement its K-8 curriculum, and we are excited that the application creates an increased ability to diversify the school community. Innovation comes from trying different things, and learning and growing from those experiences. We hope the institutions in our town (of which we are all a part) can try to build bridges, not walls, and use our collective learning to make the education
    system in Princeton better for all our children.

  7. Let’s end the canard that $15k/student at PCS is not apples to apples with $24k/student at PPS.

    A little legwork – not provided by PPS, mind you – reveals the cost per student. So this CAN be put to bed.

    -PPS has a budget of $90 million.
    -That budget identifies special ed and bilingual education costs of $13.25 million.
    -$5 million goes to Charter.
    -90 – 13.25 – 5 = $71.75 million dollars.
    -District enrollment is 3,884.
    -Special education enrollment is 497 and Charter enrollment is 348
    -3884 – 497 – 348 = 3,039 students
    $71,750,000/3,039 = $23,610 spent per student.

    So once and for all – $15k Charter vs. $24k PPS IS apples to apples. Now that we’ve firmly established that Charter is providing quantifiably better results on less money – all while PPS keeps minimum 10% per student funding for overhead – AND PCS will be a release valve for overcrowding all while offering more parents choice and more disadvantaged kids access – are there any arguments left against PCS and its proposed expansion??

    1. Let’s not.

      90 million is for ALL grades, through HS. So you also have to remove the number of PHS students from your denominator and adjust the budget numerator proportionally as well (unless a more specific number can be ID’d for the high school spend)

      Also, it adds more parity to identify how much of the Special Education spend is for K-8, and how many of the 497 are from K-8. $98,000 per year tuition payments to schools that meet their needs are for the most part, if not all, in grades 9-12.

      I have also heard that there are currently 800 kids with IEPs in PPS. From what year is the data above? Either way, whatever data is being used it should all be from the same year to ensure parity as well.

      PCS could still come out ahead, but to arrive at a “definitive” apples to apples, the inputs must be more comparable.

      1. 1) High school: are you really arguing that varsity sports and AP classes cost an extra $9k per head?
        2) You’re moving the goalposts. We just stripped all special ed costs out of the denominator and all special ed students out of the numerator. The final number is what it is, like it or not.
        3) Yes, there are fewer kids with IEPs at PCS. a) there are kids with IEPs at Charter. b) changing the entry point to K will end up with many more kids who would get IEPs at Charter, since often those needs aren’t identified until after K starts, and parents to date often have chosen to stay put. c) The amount of individual attention and assessment given to each Charter student to make sure they succeed is different from PPS, where I personally know of people who crusaded to get their kid an IEP just to get a little help with things like handwriting. That would never happen at Charter. I could keep going, but I think this is sufficient.
        4) The data is from the current year. You are free to reproduce it.

    2. do they provide better results bc their teachers are paid less and non-unionized? Isn’t this union busting? What kind of leftists are you people?

      1. Yes Cara, I’m sure that must be it. They’re given their gruel and water every morning and made to toil away at slave wages.

        Now, if you’d like to have an actual conversation, let me know. But I’m not terribly interested in engaging with your non-sequitur rantings.

      2. Charter school teachers could vote to be represented by the NJEA, or even the AFT or the CWA if they chose. I am sure all those organizations would enjoy “representing them” (at approx. $750/year in dues).

        Maybe they don’t choose to be represented by a union? There are advantages/disadvantages to have a more free-flowing relationship with their managers.

        It’s possible they know more about what they want in their job/career than you do.

  8. Isn’t this – the charter school and its expansion kind of Union busting? Why do we want teachers who teach our kids who do not have the benefits or salary of our public school teachers… Why do the Charter school administrators make more than the teachers as compared to what goes on in Public School ? Didn’t at least one of the school board candidates who was recently elected run on a position of NOT expanding the charter ? What happened to that? why would we want our charter school teachers to “cost less” than our town’s public school teachers? Why are there so few black and Latino kids at Princeton Charter? What does this mean “economically disadvantaged” ? Isn’t public school supposed to serve all kids in a community
    Why don’t folks who want private school for their kids pay for it ? We have many great private schools in our community- why not send your child there if that is what you want? OR push for a voucher for your child to attend real private school? Why ask for private school if you don’t have the money to pay for it? Why are you entitled to free private school but not your neighbor? WHy not ask Princeton U to devote some of Mr. Eisgruber’s $875,925 salary to the expansion.. I’m sure he will be happy to share LOL. OR why not ask Princeton University to fund our Charter…. since their employees don’t want to attend school with black or Latino kids and don’t get paid enough to send their children to real private school.. that would also keep population down if they at Princeton U educated their own – their own employees children no? Why not support public schools and the true inclusion and diversity they represent… Why do parents in our community pull their children out of Community Park to go to Charter School?

    1. I’m not sure where to begin here.
      1) PCS teachers are *incredibly* dedicated. They also work there of their own free will.
      2) I don’t know fully follow your sentence on pay: administrators always make more than teachers. This is true at PPS and at PCS. It is also true that the PCS teachers and administrators both make less than their counterparts at PPS.
      3) I’m unaware of any such thing, but one of the new BOE officials has a wife who runs an anti-Charter org. He however also sent his daughter to PCS for a year, so I wouldn’t pretend to know his reaction.
      4) A major point to this expansion is to weight the lottery to the economically disadvantaged, who are disproportionately balck and Latino.
      5) If you’re against everything PCS stands for, why on earth would you be for a voucher?
      6) I know you have a vendetta against Eisgruber, but his salary has beyond nothing to do with this. If however you’re suggesting the University pay more school taxes, that’s a different thing that I think many of us could get behind, but I’m not sure he’ll be convinced by your ongoing rants that this is a good idea.

  9. @Liz Winslow et al.- it is time to stop the ugliness in this thread- the kids that you all purportedly want the best school experience for, will, for the most part, be sharing a HS, so it would be nice if they weren’t being set up to be adversaries

    1. The kids are fine with it. It’s the parents that are fighting. If “ugliness” means not standing by while a critical component of this town is smeared? You got me.

      1. maybe you think your kids are the only one that matter, but many kids at the HS and middle school are most definitely NOT fine with it. They read Planet Princeton and they live in this community, and how they feel about classmates when they walk the halls is important to them, so NO they are not fine with it.

        1. Speak for yourself. I know people with kids who’ve gone through PCS and are now at PHS, and the kids are good. If they read Planet Princeton, good for them for keeping up on current events, but I’m not going to hang my hat that they’re forming cliques solely over their former middle schools.

          But, thank you for once again elevating the discourse by accusing me of thinking that only my kids matter. Rocks and glass houses and all that.

  10. The tone of this discussion here, and on Facebook is discouraging to say the least. I’d like to point out:
    – Our kids read these comments, and hear us talking about these issues. And I suspect largely, they are all going to end up at the high school together. I would hate to think these kids are going to school everyday carrying the divisive and down right nasty attitudes about their school system here.
    – It is in everyone’s best interest to provide the best possible eduction to everyone in our town. Mr. Cochran is responsible for the school system that does the bulk of the heavy lifting on this, and obviously, the only high school in the district. We should give that responsibility the respect it deserves.
    – Everyone is of course going to do what they believe is best for their children regarding school placement. But I’d like to remind everyone that our individual decisions and experiences are anecdotal – Very important to us, of course, but not necessarily indicative of the over all system. Just because our children have had a generally positive experience in PPS from kindergarten to grade 12 doesn’t necessarily mean everything is perfect. Likewise, the folks who had a negative experience in PPS and a positive one at charter, well, that carries the same weight.
    – Presumably, long after our kids have grown out of PPS, we will still be paying taxes to educate our kids. We will no longer be able to ask the the money follow our kid, or, on the other side, that it not. We are going to have to elect the best board we can, to hire the best administrators that we can, and support them to educate as many kids as they can the best that they can, for the town, our state and country.

    1. Yes, Princeton Resident, Our kids are together, want to develop lasting friendships, & deserve to take away happy childhood memories…ones they can remember & share for a lifetime, from k-12 experiences. Parents who move here to use our schools through grade 12, or for shorter terms as visitors from sending institutions, may not think about their kids finding lifelong friends here & considering this “home”. But, kids grow emotional roots here. I join you in asking parents to consider the long term, realizing family members may attach to Princeton… kids may want to come “home” here from college, or return “home” to raise a family here someday. That’s why many are concerned about the Board President’s plans for new bonds & more taxes. A sustainable school budget will keep this town viable for those who who want to call Princeton “home”. If school taxes increase again, If/when a recession returns, many will have to move. Princeton was once accessible to all. I encourage all to add a few more chairs to every gathering space, until we figure out what a sustainable School District looks like. Our tax & space horrors began some years back, when the Board overspent. Worries remain about the Board’s fitness & current trajectory.

  11. The tone of the discussion points up the harm of charter schools. Charter schools drive a divide between the community and between the parents. The district school parents are pitted against charter school parents because the charter school is like a school district unto itself, unaccountable to the duly elected school board. Another aspect of charter schools: if a student leaves a charter school after October to return to the public school, the charter school gets to keep the full year of tuition and is not obliged to replace the student who left.

    1. That is something that happens so rarely as to be statistically insignificant. Joe, you have been on multiple threads stating untruths about PCS. Now you’re changing to “tone.” All of us at PCS would *love* a collaborative tone. It is hard to achieve that when under constant siege, however. When others and I have pointed out the misperceptions about PCS, we’ve been met with ad hominems, “how dare you,” exhortations to move out of town, and at times flat-out lies about PCS. It is difficult to constantly turn the other cheek when you know there’s a line of people waiting to slap it. But if you are willing to discuss instead of disparage, then there’s a way forward.

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