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Charter School: Expansion will not have devastating financial impact on Princeton Public Schools

The Princeton Charter School has sent a letter to New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington claiming that public schools officials and leaders of Save Our Schools New Jersey have waged a misinformation campaign designed to influence the state’s decision on the expansion of the school. They also argue that the expansion will not harm the public schools.

“Given the impact amounts to about one percent of a budget that already generously funds many nonessential programs, this is a greatly exaggerated claim — if not an outright misrepresentation of
the facts. In either event, this belief is not a valid basis to reject this application,” reads the letter. “It is well within the capacity of PPS to accommodate the proposed PCS expansion without harm to its current programs. PPS’s per pupil spending is far higher than comparable districts in the state.”

The Princeton Public Schools ranked 99 out 103 districts in its 2015-16 per-pupil budget ranking within its district factor group, according to the charter school. Only four districts in the group spend more — East Orange, Camden, Pleasantville City and Teaneck. Opponents of the expansion have claimed the district’s costs are higher because of other variables, including the percentage of special education students and English language learns it educates.

The charter school contends that its expansion can readily be absorbed by the district and that impact was contemplated by the Legislature as an appropriate allocation of resources to foster the policy goals of the Charter School Program Act. “PCS does not propose to expand its enrollment by drawing from a static public school population and budget, but rather from a growing population of students that already has and will continue to justify tax levy waivers for enrollment growth, and that district officials are planning to seek bond referenda to accommodate.”

In 2015, the Princeton Public Schools received approval to exceed the 2 percent cap by $1.7 million for enrollment growth and by another $400,000 for health care costs. PPS has implemented some $800,000 of that enrollment growth waiver, and retains another $900,000 banked. Charter school officials argue that significant enrollment growth of 10 percent or more beginning in 2016 will warrant further cap waivers.

“It is inherently contradictory for PPS officials to assert that there are such significant variable costs for increased enrollment to warrant a waiver of the 2-percent cap and at the same time to claim that there are little to no variable savings to the district for  decreased enrollment if PCS is authorized to accept 76 additional students,” reads the letter. “It is also important to note that Princeton Charter School has expanded nine out of the last 20 years and that both school districts have thrived during that time: Princeton Charter School’s expansions have not prevented PPS from substantially increasing its programming offerings or led to any reductions in its faculty numbers over those two
decades.”

The charter school claims that under the law, financial impact is only a basis for denying a charter application or amendment if it will threaten the ability of the district to provide its students with the constitutionally-mandated thorough and efficient education.

“At no point in the public debate has the district or any district official even suggested that this application will prevent or threaten the district’s ability to deliver a thorough and efficient education. Nor could they, without violating their ethical obligation under the School Ethics Act to supply the public with accurate information.”

The district’s school population will continue to grow as new apartment units come on line and other projects are built, charter school officials say.

“Given the impact of this significant influx of new students into local schools, this expansion request is ideally timed to assist the district in addressing these new needs at lower cost. Even if one were to accept the district’s claims to the contrary, it cannot be credibly concluded that this phenomenon will cause devastating financial harm to the PPS district,” reads the letter.

The nine-page letter was sent Tuesday, the same day the Princeton Public Schools filed a document opposing the school’s expansion. The charter school will file a formal rebuttal in the coming days.

“Since we filed our original application, district officials and others with substantial roles in founding and leading Save Our Schools New Jersey have waged a relentless campaign of misinformation designed to influence the NJDOE’s decision and create a divide within the Princeton community,” reads the letter.

The charter school wants to make kindergarten the main year of entry by adding a second class in kindergarten, first and second grades, and adding two students per grade in grades three through eight. School officials say this will provide more opportunities for disadvantaged students, a 2:1 weighted admissions lottery to promote socioeconomic diversity, and more support services for students.

“The proposed changes will not jeopardize the ability of one of the wealthiest districts in New Jersey to continue providing a thorough and efficient education, nor will it have a ‘devastating’ financial impact on Princeton Public Schools, especially given the sizeable school-aged population growth the town of Princeton is experiencing,” reads the letter.

Charter school officials say denying the proposal would result in harm to the school, which has absorbed increasing salary, benefits and other costs with no increase in per pupil payment or overall budget.

“PPS and other public officials are dead wrong when they claim that Princeton Charter
School will suffer no harm if this amendment to its charter were denied,” reads the letter. “District officials who complain to the department of their difficulty balancing a budget with an automatic
2-percent budget increase plus numerous waivers of that cap know full well that for the past eight
years, Princeton Charter School has received $15,339 per student, with no increase
whatsoever. Over the course of those eight years, PCS has been required to provide annual
salary increases to retain its top-performing faculty, and health care costs have gone up
dramatically.”

Charter school official said last year the school was able to cover additional expenses with no
new revenues with the help of faculty, who voluntarily agreed to pay a greater share of their health benefits costs. Senior faculty declined or accepted reduced salary increases in recent years to ensure their younger colleagues receive their increases, charter school officials said.

“Without the expansion, Princeton Charter School will not only be unable to sustain current operations, but it will be unable to enhance its current program to support all its students and economically disadvantaged students in particular as contemplated in our application,” reads the letter. “This plan depends on the economies of scale that the expansion will make possible. Without expansion, we face salary freezes and reductions in our academic program, and any new initiatives of this sort to promote diversity will be impossible.”

In the letter, charter school officials ask the state to recognize the community demand for more seats at the school.

“Over the past seven years, thirty percent of all Princeton parents seek a seat for their kindergarten students at PCS, notwithstanding the reputation of PPS as a high performing district typically included among the top in the state,” reads the letter. “When 30 percent of all parents apply for the PCS lottery, they demonstrate through their action that they want PCS, they want a choice in public school options, and that more seats should be authorized to satisfy this consistently strong demand.”

If the school’s application to add 76 students is granted, charter school officials say the school will be able to satisfy roughly half of the demand and double the opportunity for economically disadvantaged students to be admitted through the lottery. “The high PCS parent demand fosters greater accountability of PPS. The presence of real parental empowerment through school choice positively impacts PPS’s governance and program decision-making,” reads the letter.

Charter school officials claim the school has taken every measure available within state rules to increase socioeconomic diversity. The school runs a marketing campaign designed to increase enrollment applications from ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged students, hosts open houses and information sessions in neighborhoods throughout Princeton, identifies potential candidate families with the help of religious and community leaders, recruits prospective students at local preschools and learning centers, and makes door-to-door visits to neighborhoods with low-income housing to inform parents about the school and its lottery, charter leaders said. The school immediately backfills every open spot in the numerical order of its waitlist, charter school officials said.

“We have sought to meet with the parents of students in PPS’s preschool program, which is offered at no cost to students who qualify for a free or reduced price meals program, to inform them about Princeton Charter School and our lottery,” reads the letter. “To date, our requests have been ignored or rejected by PPS.”

Charter school officials say a significant reason the school’s socioeconomic diversity lags that of the Princeton community is that the charter school has an atypical, staggered admissions structure with only one section of kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, but two sections in grades three through eight. Charter school leaders say as children get older, they are less likely to move from PPS schools to PCS.

“Unlike many charters that begin with the earliest grades and then add higher grades over time, we began without grades K-2 originally,” reads the letter. “This staggered admissions structure has had unintended, but significant, implications for our ability to attract economically disadvantaged students. The data reveal that approximately half the students on free and reduced lunch at some point at PCS entered the school in these earliest years. This was so even though the number of students in these grades has comprised less than 20 percent of the total number of students at PCS.”

The increase in enrollment will fund additional support services for all students, including
special needs students, English language learners, and students in need of additional help, charter school officials said.

“For the past twenty years, Princeton Charter School has been a model charter school by every measure. We have excelled academically, consistently exceeding district results. We have a strong track record of being fiscally sound. We are an organic, parent-led school that provides a meaningful and highly sought-after option in one of the state’s highest performing districts,’ reads the letter. “We embraced and had near perfect attendance for the PARCC test, in a town where the rhetoric and reality of  ‘opting out’ was widespread and fomented by many of the same groups and people opposing this application.”

Charter school officials argue that given the school’s success, denying the application would make it hard for the state to justify other charter expansions and would  be “sending a message to all charter schools that such expansions are no longer possible and that educational innovation and parental empowerment are no longer supported.”

 

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Lev Borisov

    Gimme $100. I will buy canned beans for you. I can get a great price for canned beans, it’s my specialty. No, why not? Come on, it will not have a devastating financial impact on you.

  • Liz Winslow

    Look at the MSGPs. Those measure growth, not proficiency. They’re absolutely dire for JW and not great for most of the rest of the district.

  • George

    Another comparison to look at all “I” districts with similar socio-economic composition to Princeton. Look at average scores for economically disadvantaged:
    Average score PPS NJ average of “I” districts
    MAT 2016 6th grade 733 732
    MAT 2015 6th grade 728 733
    ELA 2016 6th grade 733 739
    ELA 2015 6th grade 726 739

    So PPS is doing worse than state average in general, despite spending more than state average and advertising extensively how they educate all.

  • George

    PCS does not have enough disadvantaged groups to show up in the statistics, as was already extensively discussed. So if you want to ask how well PPS is doing in educating these groups, it has to be compared with other districts. So here is comparison with Teaneck for economically disadvantaged:
    %Exceed Expect. PPS Teaneck
    MAT 2016 6th grade 0% 8%
    MAT 2015 6th grade 0% 1%
    ELA 2016 6th grade 0% 9%
    ELA 2015 6th grade 0% 3%

  • BlueBlazer

    Discrepancies in test scores for demographics isn’t up for debate. It’s a reality that can’t be ignored when discussing metrics. If PCS and their supporters are going to tout glowing test scores while lambasting PPS scores it has to first acknowledge this reality.

    Please repost those numbers including the different demographics for economically disadvantage, disabilities, and participation.

  • George

    The differences in performance of various demographics on tests is a much much more general problem which can be debated elsewhere. In comparing the two schools, one can just compare each demographic group to itself, since PARCC scores provide breakdowns for various groups.
    So here is an example for white:
    %Exceed expectations PPS PCS
    MAT 2016 6th grade 18% 34%
    MAT 2015 6th grade 17% 58%
    ELA 2016 6th grade 17% 31%
    ELA 2015 6th grade 18% 56%

  • BlueBlazer

    The test scores at PCS aren’t a secret recipe. Pack a school with demographics that score better on standardized tests on average, limit the groups that score worse on those tests on average, ensure high participation and bingo.

    I saw that you discounted NJASK in another thread, so let’s look at PARRC and the top three ranked schools (per schoolwide average) from 2014-15:

    3rd Grade English Language Arts
    JP – 775
    LB – 774
    PCS – 773

    3rd Grade Math
    PCS – 782
    JP -773
    LB 769

    4th ELA
    LB – 781
    PCS – 779
    CP – 767

    4th Math
    PCS – 773
    RS – 758
    JP/CP – 756

    5th ELA
    PCS – 779
    LB – 774
    JP – 774

    5th Math
    LB – 769
    PCS – 765
    RS/JP – 761

    6th ELA
    PCS – 787
    JW – 757

    6th Math
    PCS – 786
    JW – 758

    7th ELA
    PCS – 797
    JW – 763

    7th Math
    JW – 776
    PCS – 763

    8th ELA
    PCS – 786
    JW – 776

    8th Math gets a bit fuzzy. JW takes Algebra 1 & 2, PCS takes Algebra 1 and Geo 1 so I’m only putting Algebra 1 below.
    Algebra 1
    PCS – 788
    JW 735

    (All this data is pulled from the NJ School Performance Report for each school. I don’t think 2015-2016 is up yet.)

    Now, things to consider:

    PCS has the highest PARRC participation rates with 98.6% and 98.7% for ELA and Math respective.

    Most PPS have lower PARCC participation rates in general, but JW has the second lowest with 78.2 and 81.4 respective. PHS is even lower, barely clocking in at 30.4 and 32.2.

    The only PPS schools to come close to PCS’ participation rate is JP at 91.5 and 91.6 respective, followed by LB with 87.2 and 86.8.

    Interestingly, the two schools that are roughly closest in demographics to PCS are also the two schools that consistently rank the same or beat PCS for PARCC scores: LB and JP.

    PCS’ highest demographics are white and asian, both groups that tend to have the highest PARRC scores (going by statewide averages). Of all PPS schools PCS has the lowest demographics for hispanic, African Americans, students with disabilities, english language learners, and economically disadvantaged students. These groups tend to score worse on PARRC (again going by statewide averages).

    You like to downplay demographics, but you cannot ignore the wide disparity in test scores for the different demographics. Look at the wide swing in averages for each group. Cling to the importance of standardized tests if you like, but you have to do so with the clear eyed understanding that they are a flawed way to measure. The do not treat all students impartially.

  • George

    OK, sure, but how do we judge it then? What is a better metric? I don’t think that just saying that tests are irrelevant and should be boycotted is the right approach.

  • BlueBlazer

    Please realize that “most people agree that PCS does a better job in educating students” is a different statement than “PCS gets better results in standardized test scores.” A well educated student does not alway equal fantastic test scores and vice versa.

  • Liz Winslow

    PP usually blocks comments with links, but if you are willing to google, there was an article on 8/23/16 in centraljersey dot com by Philip Sean Curran precisely on the $40k the district will be spending on gardening.

  • FreshAir

    About 3620 of the 3886 students attending PPS & PCS reside in Princeton. The remainder are sent from Cranbury, in MIDDLESEX County. Average class size here is 17 in Elem, 17 in JW, and 19 in PHS. Interested taxpayers are encouraged to read the clear, comprehensive demographic study & projections posted on the District website. Our enrollment peak actually occurs this year, 2017-2018. It remains very sustainable through 2040. It takes development into account. It’s shocking that anyone with active brain cells would say that the enormous amounts of cash sent to our schools and the amount of space in our classrooms isn’t enough. It’s also untrue that anyone would say we don’t have enough room in our schools.

  • Liz Winslow

    I received an anti-expansion email (I do have a child at RS, so I see the publicity on both sides) talking about how they were just able to scrape up the funding out of the budget this year – I think word for word “every dollar is precious” was used, actually. I’ve further been schooled by someone else that apparently, it’s $10k to each of four part-timers. At LB in the past I know there was at least one very dedicated mom volunteer who did the plantings, but this has now become a budget line item for the district.

    Hey, if parents want to have a garden at school, terrific. Let them volunteer, like other parents and I volunteer at PCS during lunchtime so they don’t need to hire lunch aides, etc. to pare back costs. There does have to come a common sense point when the town asks itself “what is really an educational cost that is reasonable to an average taxpayer?” Textbooks? Yes. Blackboards? Yes. Thousands of other things? Sure. But fritter away $40k here, $40k there on things like gardens, or an ampitheater at JW nicer than the one at Vassar when I was at college, etc., and soon you’re talking real money. I think whether pro or anti expansion or even PCS, there is a big rumbling in the taxpayer base about what we’re really getting in exchange for astronomical taxes, and are they even truly necessary in the first place.

  • FreshAir

    Does your 3900 include the Cranbury students from MIDDLESEX County, that we fund in PPS?

  • Liz Winslow

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think one thing you and I *can* agree on is – at the end of the day, assuming PCS did just roll up into PPS – why does it cost $95 million to educate 3900 students, and why is it taken for granted that property taxes will increase every year? Those are the cold, hard, unadjusted numbers.

  • FreshAir

    Princeton already has room for grades K-6 in PPS & PCS facilities. Ample room also exists in PPS buildings for students who reside in Princeton. There’s no way to justify a tax payer funded physical expansion of any school here.

    Of course, our plutocracy always needs more than reality supports. Why should unrealistic “wish lists” be funded by taxes? School tax increases create higher housing costs here for everyone.

    PISA testing reveals that teachers & healthy values drive excellence in quality schools. Some of the most excellent systems host large numbers in minimal facilities. In this part of the world, families desiring alternatives, to the experiences the PPS system offers, can pursue opportunities for admission to the many excellent private schools in our region. They offer scholarships, tailored curriculums, & experiences.

    What’s really needed in Princeton is our attention to our teachers, students, & the bottom line. Spending more hasn’t created “better”, and has actually done harm. Repurposing some existing educational space may be needed to accommodate population growth. It’s probably time to start phasing out the agreement with Cranbury too. That will help prepare for our future, support environmental sustainability, & create fairness for all Princeton taxpayers.

  • George

    I said “most people agree that PCS does a better job in educating students” not in some abstract way. If you have a quantitative way of measuring education success other than test scores, please share it. Perhaps PPS would like to share the differences in grades when all these students get to high school.

  • BlueBlazer

    PARCC scores don’t mean that “most people agree PCS does a better job.”

  • George

    Of course there are drawbridgers, they like to keep the school small and “special” once they got in. The PARCC scores for comparable demographics are higher in PCS = better academic preparation. The school simply does what a school is supposed to – make sure people learn.

  • BlueBlazer

    I don’t think there’s much data to back up “most people agree that PCS does a better job.” I understand this is your preference, but you cannot extrapolate that preference to how the majority feels. In fact, I’ve seen Charter parents balk at this proposed expansion, even though they like the school and find it a good match for their children.

  • BlueBlazer

    I use the word “weight” to indicate how the lottery by default is skewed to favor certain applicants. I don’t see how this is an incorrect use of the word. My dictionary’s second definition of the verb “weight” is to “be planned or arranged so as to put a specified person, group, or factor in a position of advantage or disadvantage.” As I’ve said before, I don’t think PCS’ lottery was intentionally weighted to produce the results it does, but it is a flawed system and this what it delivers.

    As to how the sibling rule also favors certain demographics in our community: Back to marble analogy. Presume 80 purple marbles, 5 blue marbles, and 5 green marbles. But, also presume each marble is part of a two set. Now pick marbles for twenty slots. Presumably, purple will fill most of those slots. Now, pick a second twenty slots, but this time you need to pre-fill those slots with any matching sets pulled in the first twenty. Since purlple gets a weight in the first pulling, and now you need to pre-pull any sets, you’re weighting a second time for purple. It’s an imperfect anaology, but I hope it gets the idea across.

    If you simply give non-purple marbles two tries, your not fully countering the exiting bias, and it remains an unequal system.

    Remember when reading Nappi’s account it is one side of a debate. I would be extremely interested to hear both sides. Perhaps some kids function better with pictograms, and that’s why they were being used? I don’t know. I do know that PPS don’t teach a “one sized” fits all, or “teach for the test” approach. They teach to the student, and I’ve been impressed with how well they adjust to the diverse needs of their classes. I’m sure there are some exceptions to this, as with every system, but I’m wary of how bleak a picture PCS has painted time and time again of PPS. It just doesn’t hold up to my experience, or those around me.

    I don’t doubt that PCS could benefit from more funds, but to make the holiday weekend, end of deadline grab that they attempted it a terrible way to go about it. Unfortunately, the black eye they have from this is self inflicted.

    As for the ongoing garden issue, could you point me to where these fees are draining resources from our community? At my school they are tended to by PTO volunteers and teachers.

  • George

    Yes, the primary purpose of schools is to educate, which means to impart knowledge and skills independent of family background. So I agree with Chiara’s statement, the lack of content in the curriculum affects more strongly the students who cannot rely on their parents for education. If most people agree that PCS does a better job in educating students who enroll in it, then the logical solution is to expand it to include as many people as possible instead of faulting it for not educating the right kind of students.

  • BlueBlazer

    I do not believe I said serving disadvantaged students was the primary purpose for founding PCS.

    However, I do believe that it IS the primary purpose of all public schools is to educate ALL members of a community fairly and equally, regardless of their socioeconomic standing. If you truly view this only as an optional “noble purpose” I must strongly disagree. I would also argue that for the non-affluent in our community, and therefore all of us, it really is a “most pressing concern.”

    I will note that although serving the disadvantaged in our community wasn’t the primary reason for founding PCS it has always been a touchstone for them.

    From Chiara’s report:
    “The main complaint: a lack of standards and content in the school curriculum, which deprived many students, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, of a real opportunity to learn.”

    From PCS’ Charter:
    “By fourth grade wide gaps in achievement emerge that cannot be explained by variations in ability alone. Disturbingly but not surprisingly, these gaps often correspond to children’s socioeconomic differences and varying levels of parental support. Some are created by inconsistent or even ineffective treatment of core areas such as language arts and mathematics. Princeton Charter School cannot hope to close these gaps entirely, but it believes that a stronger education program will help to bridge them.”

    The very first sentence in PCS proposed amendment:
    “In order to increase access for disadvantaged students, the Board of Trustees of Princeton Charter School (PCS) respectfully requests an amendment to the PCS charter to implement a weighted lottery that would give an advantage to economically disadvantaged students coupled with a request to expand from one class to two classes in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade and to add two seats in grades 3 through 8 to increase the number of seats available for these students.”

  • Liz Winslow

    It would be lovely if you’d stop incorrectly using the word “weight” as thought PCS were out to weight for white people only. I’ve read the marbles in a jar analogy. I get it. That’s why the only weighting to occur will be to disadvantaged, which is what your third paragraph is getting at. As far as sibling preference, besides making it far easier for parents (would you like one kid at RS and one kid at CP, logistically?), getting more disadvantaged students in the door would then give their siblings preference, no? Jettisoning sibling preference in the face of a lottery weighted to the economically disadvantaged doesn’t make any sense, taking a view 5 years out.

    Also, I agree with George – PCS per Nappi was about having a standard curriculum that didn’t rely in some rooms on pictograms.

    And saying PPS can’t afford $1mm is about the same as saying PCS can’t afford $50k, or that the median Princeton household making $120k can’t afford $1200. You might not like to, but you can. PPS could even start with paring back taxpayer-funded gardening, among other belt-tightening measures.

  • George

    I’ve read Chiara Nappi’s account and I don’t recall that serving underprivileged was the primary purpose of forming the charter school. It is certainly a noble purpose but it is not the primary purpose of any school system, especially in a place like Princeton where this is not the most pressing concern. The primary purpose of a school is to educate and secondly to socialize students. Having a representative demographics helps with the second goal, but it should not be the primary metric. Unfortunately “think of the underprivileged” is a sales pitch that is rolled out when needed primarily by the PPS proponents, see Harry posts above.

  • Harry

    if PCS administrators failed to proof that it Is able to increase the low income representation (without the additional $1.2 million) as well as PPS, than it is best to have PPS to take over the PCS.

  • Harry

    PCS administrators had failed to include the poor in the past decades.

    The increase weight for the disadvantage should have been done i the past and can be done now without the additional $1.2 million from PPS.

    PCS. need to proove that it can represent the low income family first.

    PCS administrators should not receive the $1.2 million.

  • BlueBlazer

    PCS is a publicly funded school. It should allow equal opportunity to everybody. This doesn’t happen due to the flawed enrollment. If all residents applied, those with the highest demographics would be favored entry. Once you weight the student population to those demographics, introducing the sibling rule will further enhance those skewed demographics. It gives those families already enrolled first pick at an already limited pool, which is going to further skew your demographics numbers. There are other factors that contribute to these numbers, but those two are the most obvious, and they are backed up by 20 years of enrollment data.

    This issue is a nontrivial, especially considering how PCS was founded with an eye to serving the underprivileged, and is now pushing the amendment as a chance to correct their failure of following through on this. I’m reading through Chiara Nappi’s account of the founding of PCS and its a bit sad. She paints a bleak picture of how awful PPS was at serving their students, especially so with the socioeconomically disadvantaged. She repeatedly cites how much better PCS would be at addressing the woeful state of public education in Princeton, especially for the most disadvantaged in our community. But, looking over the last 20 years it’s pretty obvious how underserved this part of our community has been by PCS. Looking at the current amendment extolling how much it will help the disadvantaged, while reading her account of PCS’ founding, makes me feel like either no lessons have been learned at PCS, or “think of the underprivileged” is a just a good sales pitch rolled out when needed.

    As far as what to do about this? It will require a reworking of the admission process, and probably rethinking how the school is structured. Simply doubling chances for those least served won’t work. Honestly, it probably requires setting aside a number of seat in keeping with the ratio of our community. Instead of siblings getting first pick letting those least served by tax dollars get first pick. That *might* start to reverse some of the enrollment issues. But throwing more tax money at a system that doesn’t follow through on its founding promise to serve all in our community is not a good idea.

  • George

    With random lottery, the demographics will reflect the composition of the people who apply. If 80% of one demographic group apply, 40% of another group and 20% of the third group apply, the resulting composition of the school will be skewed from the overall population. I am not sure what to do about it. Of the school accepted all who applied, the demographics would still be skewed from the population of the town. I don’t think the sibling rule makes a big difference since the number of children per family is not that different among the groups.

  • BlueBlazer

    I would note that instruction costs for PPS account for 40% of budget, PCS accounts for 43% of budget. I would agree that if PCS is unable to maintain the per student budget it’s something we as a community should discuss. I think public school teachers deserve all the support we can afford. It is interesting that looking over the state NJ education budget site I do see PCS per-student budget increasing each year, but I haven’t been able to tease out exact numbers yet. I would be interested in looking over any previous budget expansions requested by PCS.

    Your note about the kindergarten/3rd grade skews demographics only for the “most motivated” ignores that reality that a randomized weighted lottery will always favor those with the highest demographics (affluent and white in our community). That’s regardless of what grades are accepting when and how “motivated” the parents are. Add in the sibling rule and the limited calendar window for admissions and you’ve put in some sizable hurdles. Because of these automatic weightings, simply doubling the chance for disadvantaged applicants won’t make much of a difference to PCS demographics. I would also question why skewing towards “most motivated families” means that PCS would naturally end up with demographics that don’t represent our community.

  • George

    Paragraph 3: They will add 3 new grades and increase slightly enrollment in others. So they have to hire 3 teachers, that costs less than $1m, the rest can go to rises. Its remarkable they have been able to operate for 8 years without increase in budget. I like to see the teacher union to be as accommodating as PCS teachers.

    Paragraph 4: Parents who are not as motivated to apply to PCS may apply for kindergarten, but will not bother doing it again for 3rd grade. So that skews demographics to the most motivated families.

  • BlueBlazer

    PCS seems to ignore how every little dollar counts. Brushing off the expansion as “one percent” means nothing. Taking over one million dollars from a budget will have an impact, regardless of how you slice it. There is much in the PPS budget that is “set in stone” due to contracts and existing agreements. PPS doesn’t have the flexibility to pivot at such short notice without impacting services to students. If the PCS can’t understand this then I have to doubt if they are considering the reality of the situation.

    PCS’ continued insistence that shuffling 76 students around will help PPS with overcrowding blatantly ignores where the influx of students will be going. A slight bump in kindergarten and third grade will do nothing for the entire school district. Additionally, because of the PCS’ sibling rule the 76 spots won’t truly be used for new students to the area. Due to the flawed enrollment system, those already enrolled will get first pick, then it will pass to those able to submit enrollment by the March deadline, after which every other new arrival who has or will apply to PCS will be passed to PPS. Of course, this also ignores all new students going to ANY grade other than kindergarten and third. Any assistance PCS will provide with overcrowding is going to be minimal at best.

    PCS claims that they will suffer if the amendment is declined, and cite increases in salary and health care costs to back this up. However, if they budget at $15,339 per student, how will an increase or flatline in student body change this? If they truly need a bump in teacher salary and health costs, then apply for this, not a for a student increase. If their much touted low cost per student isn’t feasible to maintain, then let us as a community discuss their true cost per student and get it adjusted so it is correct.

    PCS claims that their admission of K-2 is what causes their skewed demographics. I’m stumped by this claim. They use a weighted lottery that favors the largest socio-economic groups in our area, then add a sibling rule that further weights this to the same socio-economic group, and yet they claim the grade staggering is at fault. Basic math doesn’t support this claim. I’m unclear why PCS continues to hold on to it.

  • Milo mina

    Finally a balanced and well written reply to the chaos and misinformation spread by Mr Cochran who has been able to trump up support amongst PPS parents by painting this small expansion as a dire make or break event for PPS. As I said in a previous comment, he has neglected his duties to have a credible, for that matter – ANY, plan to address the growth that has already occurred and will continue in the coming years. For a senior manager that is highly paid to ensure success and stability for the district, this is a gross oversight. And now, instead of focusing money and energy on addressing the “real” issue he has pulled a trump by obscuring the facts to a point of causing panic amongst unsuspecting parents.

Events Calendar

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Sat 16
Sat 16

Chanukah Celebration at Adath Israel

December 16 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Sat 16

Princeton Symphony Orchestra Holiday POPS! Concert

December 16 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Sat 16

Screening: It’s a Wonderful Life

December 16 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Sun 17

Christmas Bird Count, Kingston segment

December 17 @ 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
Sun 17
Sun 17

Santa Comes to Kale’s Garden Center

December 17 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sun 17
Sun 17

Carillon Concert at Princeton University

December 17 @ 1:00 pm - 1:45 pm
Sun 17
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Events Calendar

« December 2017 » loading...
M T W T F S S
27
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1
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Sat 16
Sat 16

Chanukah Celebration at Adath Israel

December 16 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Sat 16

Princeton Symphony Orchestra Holiday POPS! Concert

December 16 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Sat 16

Screening: It’s a Wonderful Life

December 16 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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