Public schools officials in Princeton are weighing their options in the wake of the state’s approval of the expansion of the Princeton Charter School, the superintendent for the Princeton Public Schools said in a statement released by the district on March 2.
Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane called the approval a deeply disappointing decision that does not align with the expressed wishes of the Princeton community, and said the approval for the charter school to expand by 76 students would diminish the educational opportunities for the vast majority of students in Princeton. Public schools officials estimate that the expansion will cost the district about $1.18 million a year.
“As a public school district, we have the responsibility and the privilege to educate a wonderful diversity of nearly 3800 students. We remain concerned that this decision will affect our long-term ability to provide those students with the outstanding academic and co-curricular experiences they deserve,” Cochrane said in the written statement posted on the district’s website. “We remain concerned, as well, that the PCS application was designed without the input of our community and that its approval will effectively appropriate $1.2 million in taxes, every year, without any vote.”
Cochrane said because of those concerns he and the board are considering their options, including the right to appeal the state commissioner of education’s decision.
“Our goal will always be to do what is in the best interest of our students and of the broader Princeton community,” he said in the statement. “We are grateful to the many members of that community who joined our opposition to the PCS expansion and who recognize that a system of school choice that harms one group of children to help another is inherently unjust. We are also grateful to the many educators, parents, public officials and community partners who continue to support our desire to use our town’s limited tax dollars to provide the most innovative and effective education for all of our students. We ask the community to remain thoughtful, engaged and respectful as we find a way to move forward on behalf of the children we share.”
Leaders of the advocacy group Keep PPS Strong are saying the next governor should reverse the expansion and other expansion approvals and change the New Jersey charter school law. One leader of the group suggested that the Princeton Public Schools should refuse to pay the charter school.
“Princeton Public Schools receives less money from the state than we send to the very segregated Princeton Charter School,” reads the Facebook post. “If PPS refused to pay PCS, the state of NJ could withhold the state aid to our district, but the district would still be ahead financially. And in January, we’d have a new Governor who could reverse the expansion.”
The next governor will be under pressure to enforce the charter school law requirement that charter schools reflect their sending communities, wrote the leader of Keep PPS Strong on the group’s Facebook page. “Given the level of anger in this community at PCS, which will only intensify as more of our tax dollars are sent to that horribly segregated school, and our children are hurt because our public schools lose teachers and critically needed resources, we suspect PCS will be one of the first charter schools targeted for closure for its intense segregation,” reads the Facebook post.