Community Forum About Princeton Charter School Expansion Tonight

The second of two forums on the proposed expansion of the Princeton Charter School will be held tonight at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the John Witherspoon Middle School.

Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane will discuss how the Princeton Public Schools would be affected by an expansion of the charter school. Julia Sass Rubin, a professor with the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, will give a presentation comparing demographics and costs per pupil for the Princeton Public Schools and Princeton Charter School. Officials said there will be time for questions.

Larry Patton, head of the Princeton Charter School, wrote a letter to Cochrane this week about the presentation, one of two this week. Charter school officials claim Rubin’s presentations contain inaccurate and misleading information. The letter follows.

Dear Mr. Cochrane,

Based on my understanding that you have asked Julia Sass Rubin, of Save Our Schools, an anti Charter School lobbyist, to make presentations to parents and the community, I wanted to reach out to you to share my concerns. I found the information presented by Ms. Rubin at the December 13 PPS Board meeting to be inaccurate and misleading. Given the supposed highly touted and celebrated credentials of Ms. Rubin as an “expert” in these matters, I am at as loss as to why such basic and misleading errors are present in her analysis. More important, however, is that it is my view that by soliciting her analysis and privileging her access at the board meeting, at a special meeting for Princeton Public School parents, and at a public meeting, you as Superintendent stand behind her calculations and report as the findings of the district.

I feel that the presentations this week mark a significant crossroad for you as Superintendent because such inaccurate information that misleads the citizens of Princeton is unfair and disrespectful of the students, families, and teachers at Princeton Charter School. I also feel that the information she will present has the tacit endorsement of your office and the Princeton Public Schools district since she has been invited by you to represent the facts and figures.

Primary among my concerns with her presentation at the Board Meeting on 12/13/17 are:

Her statement that PCS does not have any non-speech Special Education students.

Her statement that there are no costs of Special Education for the Charter School.

Reliance on a mystery report that she could not explain, that was not produced, that states that PCS underperforms in comparison to all Princeton Public Schools, which also is not corroborated by any information released by the New Jersey Department of Education.
Representation of the cost per pupil of a PPS student that removes the cost of Special Education and the Charter School, without correspondingly removing Charter School students and Special Education students from the total number of students used to determine the per pupil amount. (An error that results in thousands of dollars of discrepancy in per pupil costs.)

The erroneous facts presented by Ms. Rubin seem intended to have a strongly negative impact on the public’s view of the Charter School and has raised the hostility against our families and “our students.” I share these concerns with you as I feel that her presentation and your endorsement of her position reflects upon your judgment in this matter.


Lawrence Patton


  1. A forum is defined as “a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.” Given this event’s two scheduled speakers, I’d call it a rant.

  2. From Princeton Patch: Quote- Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert has come out in opposition to the proposed Princeton Charter School expansion, Lempert confirmed to Princeton Patch by email on Thursday.

    Lempert recently told the Princeton Packet that she is concerned about the impact it will have on the entire school district due to the cost.

    She also said she’d rather see the final decision be left up to voters locally, possibly through a referendum, as opposed to have lawmakers in Trenton make the final decision. End quote.

    1. Whether a charter school should be off loaded on an unsuspecting school district should be left up to the voters in the first place not the DOE which has been captured by the well funded charter school lobby. You know, billionaires like DeVos, Carl Icahn, Broad, the Waltons, etc.

      1. Joe – the PCS application was approved by the PPS Board – all elected officials – at the time of its original application. And PCS has never been part of a corporate organization. It is qualitatively different in virtually every way from a Success Academy, a Kipp, etc. I think the conversation needs to start there – it was approved by Princeton elected officials. The expansion is another matter, but not the existence itself.

        1. interesting that you point to the authority of the elected officials only when it suits your argument. these are the same elected officials that approved the gardens, the smart boards, and all the other budget items that you are so opposed to. we all have the opportunity to exercise our democratic right when it comes to voting for the board of PPS – but not when it comes to PCS.

          1. I’m not sure I follow your point. Charter was approved 20 years ago. And that is how law works. And PCS parents vote in the PCS board, so no, they’re not somehow appointed without any vote.

            We now have in a whole new set of BoE members. But thank you for revealing you are one of a very few number of people on the PP FB thread, because that’s where I brought those specific points up today. Good to know who I’m conversing with – and also that there apparently are a limited number of people willing to go loud with their opposition.

            1. yes, PCS parents get to vote for BOTH boards – while the rest of the citizens only get to vote for PPS board.

              1. As I have children in both PPS and PCS, do you think I should forfeit my PPS vote? Also, do you think taxpayers who have no children who attend PPS schools should not have a vote? Because that is where your logic is heading, and it’s troubling to think that as custodians of Princeton tax dollars, you want to limit those who vote to decide on how to spend them to only a very narrow set of people.

                  1. Again, the expansion is one thing, the existence another. Should we have a vote on all businesses staying in existence every year and whether they are a net add to the community? How about on all public works projects? Should we have a referendum on whether we’re a sanctuary city? Can someone whose permit was denied by the Shade Tree Commission vote on them, too?

                    The voting was decided at the time of the Charter application. If you dislike the way it’s playing out, the place to go is Trenton (probably after Christie is out of office), not trying to round up folks with pitchforks about a referendum that won’t happen because there is currently no legal provision for it.

                    1. I’m not sure what you are talking about – as a tax payer of Princeton, I would like a say in BOTH PPS and PCS governance by voting on the members of their boards. I don’t have that – I can only vote on PPS board members. That is not fair. If the community at large could vote on BOTH boards, it is possible the PCS board would be representative of the views and desires of the entire community rather than just the views and desires of the PCS community. And were that the case, perhaps they never would have pushed to expand. Speculation to be sure, but what is certainly true is, there is no opportunity for a vast majority of princeton tax payers to influence PCS policy by voting on their board members.

                    2. PCS is not part of the PPS school district. It is that simple. WW-P parents don’t get to vote on the PPS school district, either. Money follows the child. Again, you may not like this state of affairs and that’s your right, but what you are complaining about, and advocating for, is something for which there is currently no legal mechanism. At the risk of harming the charter school we love so much, my advice to you if you hate the system so much, beyond the letter-writing campaign now re expansion, the proper avenue for these complaints is to gear up for Trenton post-Christie. All the internet posts in the world will not provide a legal framework for a referendum in the here and now.

                    3. Huh? WW-P parents aren’t funding the PPS school! But I am funding PCS!

                      PCS is a public school, just like PPS, right? It is funded by my tax dollars, right? So, I would like a vote on it’s board, so that I have representation through my vote in how my money is spent. I’m really not sure how to say that more plainly.

                      And you seem to think I am arguing that PCS should go away. That is not the case. I am not interested in mounting some kind of ‘destroy PCS’ campaign and revoking their charter. I am just arguing that it is unfair that the PCS board gets to spend my money without any chance for me to influence it’s governance.

                    4. My point was that WW-P parents might care what goes on in Princeton schools – perhaps they’re thinking of moving in. But they’re not part of the PPS community. Your taxes are set by PPS – your elected representatives. PCS, to which community you apparently don’t belong, has zero power to tax. So it’s not taxation without representation. It is an allocation of resources based on the stated preference of more PPS families to enroll in PCS, as witnessed by the 4x oversubscribed lottery and three-figure waitlist. They are taxpayers and they should have a say, too.

                      Are you aware that the amount of your tax dollars that PCS spends is less than the amount PPS spends on debt service? Or that the increased remittance would barely equal 1% of PPS’s budget? Let’s talk about administrator salaries that top out at $119k at PCS, but go up to $181k for the business manager at PPS. Let’s talk about $40,000 elementary school gardens, and Smart Boards, and all sorts of bells and whistles that are nice to have but hardly mission-critical to education. At the end of the day combining PCS into the equation, Princeton spends $95mm on debt service and education for under 4,000 students. If PPS showed any willingness to sharpen its pencils, instead of relying on perpetual tax increases and jumping the cap when deemed necessary, it would be a much easier conversation to have.

                    5. Liz Winslow — it is SO telling that you mention WW-P parents moving into Princeton to attend the Princeton Charter School. BECAUSE that is exactly what is happening with all of the rentals at Avalon and Copperwood. Isn’t it interesting how “tapped into that phenomenon” you are.

                      So…taxpayer money is taken from the PPS school budget to fund the education of WW-P families moving into town who would like to take advantage of the expansion at the Charter School and then MORE IMPORTANTLY to take advantage of the education of Princeton High School!!

                      It is a the BEST SCAM going — and you, as a Charter School parent just confirmed what we have all known is happening AND why there is such a big push for expansion from your Board. These potential new WW-P families will be very generous with fundraising efforts and donations at your Charter School…isn’t that right?

                    6. What on earth are you talking about? Avalon’s not even 10% rented, and I was speculating that – gasp – sometimes people move for school district (believe it or not, this has happened in human history). You sound absolutely unhinged. I’ve confirmed nothing about your crazy conspiracy theory. You should get your tinfoil hat checked for leaks.

                    7. I will be happy to engage with you when you’re not delusionally ranting about how PCS plans to run an illegal, fixed lottery focusing on promised large donees from other towns. Until then, keep us apprised on the black helicopters circulating over your house.

                    8. Wow – your references aluding to crazy behavior seem very familiar to you….

                      I guess being a bully and making fun of others is not a big deal in your home.

                      To clarify – you were the one who brought the notion of WW-P families moving into the district into the above discussion thread. Not me or the others reacting to your 2 separate posts:

                      YOUR QUOTE: “PCS is not part of the PPS school district. It is that simple. WW-P parents don’t get to vote on the PPS school district, either.”

                      YOUR QUOTE: “My point was that WW-P parents might care what goes on in Princeton schools – perhaps they’re thinking of moving in. But they’re not part of the PPS community.’

                    9. I just reviewed your comment history, and confirmed my opinion of you by your trashing of Jamaica Ponder’s exposure of the Nazi beer pong incident, saying she should be summoned in front of the superintendent as well. What were you saying about bullying, again?

                      BTW, you still make no sense.

                    10. AGAIN, your recap of printed comments by me and others are incorrect. But, at this point I am actually feeling embarrassed for you – so, I will no longer engage with you. However, based on your past comment history, I am sure you will continue to tangle with many – have at it!

                    11. This is not bullying a brave teenager? Your words:
                      “However, instead, Ms. Ponder acted in very “Trump-Like” way and just
                      threw accelerant onto the fire by posting it on social media – prompting
                      everyone to be reactive vs. proactive in handling the very serious
                      problem. She acted as judge and jury and sentenced both the teenagers
                      and their unknowing parents to judgement without all the facts.
                      Because of this, I believe her actions should be seriously discussed
                      with Mr. Cochran, as well.”

                      How is that an incorrect characterization? Keep on going, the conspiracy theories with a side of gaslighting are entertaining!

                1. I think the point is just the opposite. You, me, people with kids, without kids, older kids, private school kids, EVERYONE who pays taxes in Princeton can and should vote for the BoE members, and in that way influence policy. But why shouldn’t this logic be applied to the PCS board as well? PCS is using my tax dollars, and I have ZERO say in how they will spend them. That is simply not fair.

                  ALL tax paying members of our community should be able to effect how our money is spent by BOTH PPS and PCS.

            2. Um, perhaps I should point out that just because someone apparently /read/ what you posted on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re among those who have commented. You are no closer to “knowing who you’re conversing with” than you were before.

              1. Not true, actually – my only conversations don’t happen on public forums, you know 🙂

          2. We all don’t have the right to vote on the PPS Board’s fiscally irresponsible actions or refusal to see the expansion as part of the solution, ignoring the extra classroom space at no cost to the district!

            1. PPS has a reason not to see the expansion as part of the solution.

              Specifically, there is no shortage of space at the elementary school level, so building more elementary school capacity is inefficient for the town overall. Our daughter’s class in CP had 15 kids at some point last year. This is great but hardly an efficient use of town’s resources. However, as opposed to PCS the district does not have nearly as much control over enrollment. This leads to some inefficiency in the best of times, and the proposed PCS expansion would increase this inefficiency through no fault of PPS. We as taxpayers will end up paying for it one way or the other.

              I have nothing against Charter School, but they are able to optimize their enrollment and know precisely the number of students in each grade. The district does not have this luxury and is going to react negatively when PCS actions exacerbate the existing imbalance.

              If PCS could expand in 6-8 and maybe add grade 9, then perhaps one could reconfigure JW to 6-9 and PHS to 10-12. It may not be an easy thing to implement and it would be rather difficult for PCS, but that would be an expansion that I could get behind.

              1. Lev, Agreement is sent from my family that sufficient space exists for more students. We send thanks for your work on a possible solution to PPS’ complaints about space. Can’t say yours is the best approach, but we appreciate & hope for a creative one.

  3. Man, did PCS ever step in a flaming pile of dog-do with this one. It seems that many people who never gave the charter school much thought one way or the other are suddenly paying attention and deciding they don’t like what they see. Major tactical (and ultimately strategic) error here.

  4. Bruce Wayne, I couldn’t agree more. I used to think Charter was a nice alternative, and never harbored a single negative thought about it. I now see it as secretive, aggressive, and not interested in even considering the possible broader impact its decisions can have on the community. I also do not like the nasty and I daresay defensive tone of its head of school and board chair. Why have they gone out of their way to insult our superintendent as well as to disparage a professor providing ancillary data? Look, the case against the expansion application at this time does not even need to reference any of those data points; the secrecy alone, and the failure over many years to be representative of the community demographically are enough to call into question this application. I don’t understand how this can be the right approach. If I were a charter parent not on that board, I think I would be really annoyed – especially since even they were kept out of the loop on this decision! As a taxpayer and non-charter parent, I sure am. And like I said, I have never been anti-charter all….so please don’t lump this comment into the “people always hate us” category. COLLABORATE!! PLAY NICE IN THE SANDBOX!! PLEASE LEAD BY EXAMPLE FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THE CHILDREN IN THIS TOWN.

    1. Let’s back up here. Both Patton and Cochrane have been very kind speaking about each other in that they genuinely believe the other has the best of intentions, although they differ wildly on execution. That being said, it’s hard to have a dialog when PPS slaps a lawsuit on PCS, don’t you think?

      As for demographics, by JSR’s own data, it did start out on a par with PPS, and that decreased over time. By double-weighting the economically disadvantaged (which a change in law only recently allowed PCS to do) they hope to correct that over time, especially as sibling preference is extended to disadvantaged students, as it is to all students.

      Last, me personally, speaking for nobody else? You’re right, my head spun when I saw the application was a done deal. And given that PCS I think currently is as close to perfection as a school can come, I am a bit apprehensive. That being said, the lottery is 4x oversubscribed every year, and we would have moved had our son not gotten in. So, from the perspective of it’s just plain the right thing to do to extend that same choice – to other taxpayers, like you and me – I am in favor of it. There are of course the financial and performance metrics to discuss as well (which even by JSR’s data point in favor of PCS), but why is nobody discussing that 10% of the sending district’s kids are at PCS, and many more would be, if they got in? Why is there no introspection at PPS?

    2. Your feelings are expressed clearly. Those in my family still have no feelings one way or another about charter, but are surprised at all the drama of these reveals. In an effort to play nice, let’s not enter into the toxic fallout from PPS/PCS “leadership”. Let’s instead work on serious ideas to house our students now & in the future. Please look at Lev Borisov’s posting below… & join concerned families & taxpayers in making what we have work. That approach is needed to solve this problem holistically & well. Feeding factions is too costly on so many levels & not healthy for our kids. Your suggestions to play nice & lead by example are appreciated. Thank you.

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