The New Jersey Department of Education has approved the Princeton Charter School’s controversial plan to expand its student body by 76 students and offer a weighted lottery to benefit economically disadvantaged students.
The approval comes in spite of a campaign opposing the expansion. A petition calling for the state to deny the application received more than 3,000 signatures.
“We thank the Acting Commissioner Kimberley Harrington for approving the request in its entirety to amend our charter to implement our proposed access and equity plan, allowing for the implementation a weighted enrollment lottery and enhanced support services for economically disadvantaged and special education students through a modest increase of the school’s enrollment by 76 students,” said Paul Josephson, chairman of the Princeton Charter School Board of Trustees, in a statement about the commissioner’s decision to approve the school’s amended charter.
“The Commissioner should be commended for taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to our application, judiciously considering both public sentiment and the actual merits of the request. Over the last few months, this charter amendment request has been at the center of a heated debate within our community that has primarily focused on the anticipated impact that the enrollment expansion will have on the school district,” Josephson said. “It is unfortunate that school funding laws put our public schools at odds at moments like these, and we reiterate our call that the Princeton Public Schools work with us to find a legislative solution that makes us allies in the cause of better public education. As we have stated many times publicly, we are confident that the access and equity plan, phased in over two years, will have minimal financial impact to the school district.”
As of 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, school district officials had not responded to a request for comment on the decision.
Josephson said Princeton Charter School’s ability to enroll more Princeton students will relieve some of additional burden to the Princeton Public Schools associated with the influx of younger school aged children moving into Princeton, a claim school district officials have rejected.
“A weighted lottery will ensure that more ethnically diverse, socio-economically disadvantaged students are given the opportunity to attend Princeton Charter School,” said Josephson, adding that the school is open to continuing our discussions with the school district to find innovative ways to collaborate and reduce costs for both the charter school and the district. District officials say the expansion will cost the district $1.2 million a year.
“The public debate over the Princeton Charter School expansion, while contentious, demonstrates that Princeton is filled with smart, passionate people who aren’t shy about advocating for what is best for our children,” Josephson said. “This level of passion is encouraging. We hope all can agree after this debate that nobody has a monopoly on the best educational solution. As a community with many visions of what is best, having a choice in public education makes Princeton an even more attractive place to live. I am confident that the PCS and PPS community will be able to find common ground going forward and that we can work together, collaboratively and in good faith, to provide the best possible public educational opportunities for all Princeton students.”
Representatives from the Princeton Charter School and the Princeton Public Schools met three times to try to negotiate a settlement regarding the expansion but could not come to an agreement. The next move was up to the Princeton Public Schools. The Charter School was still waiting for a response from the Princeton Public Schools after the most recent meeting.