Planet Princeton

Public Schools Board will file appeal challenging Princeton Charter School expansion

The school board for the Princeton Public Schools announced today that it will file an appeal challenging the state’s approval of the Princeton Charter School expansion.

The appeal will be filed with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court and the school board will also file a request with the Acting State Commissioner of Education to stay her decision, officials said.

“We are filing this appeal on behalf of the students and the taxpayers of the Princeton
community,” Superintendent Steve Cochrane said in a press release. “It is economically,
educationally, and ethically unjust that a majority of the allowable increase in the school
budget will, for years to come, fund the expansion of 76 students at the Princeton
Charter School, while leaving a much smaller portion for the nearly 3,800 students in the
growing and far more diverse Princeton Public Schools.”

The state approved the charter school’s application to amend its charter to expand by 76 students over the next two years and add a weighted lottery last week. Officials from the Princeton Public Schools say the expansion will cost the district $1.18 million a year.

“There are some principles worth fighting for,” Cochrane said.  “The funding for our
children’s education is one of them.”

Cochrane said he does not want to see students caught in the middle of this dispute.

“While we, as a District, are committed to addressing this decision in the courts, we are equally committed to ensuring that our schools, our classrooms, and our community remain welcoming environments for every student and their families,” he said. “They are all our children.”

Paul Josephson, head of the Princeton Charter School Board of Trustees, said the school wishes to work collaboratively with Princeton Public Schools to ensure that this expansion is implemented with minimal impact.

“We have heard the community and following up on three earlier meetings with the Superintendent and Princeton Public Schools officials, we await the board’s response to our invitation to renew those discussions and work together in the best interests of all Princeton public school students,” Josephson said.

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.

  • Liz Winslow

    Here it is: it provides a baseline about how seriously to take a person when they vehemently argue whether something they admit they didn’t even read in its entirety is/is not relevant. The entire Keep PPS Strong page is relevant to any discussion on charter expansion, as its sole purpose is to cheerlead lawsuits against the expansion. The mean-spiritedness shown in the gala post is merely one of many highlights.

    See ya.

  • BlueBlazer

    You are, once again, dodging.

    A FB post about PCS fundraiser is not related to Planet Princeton reporting on the PPS challenging PCS’ expansion. Even If it was germane your take on the FB post was wrong.

    Obviously we are going nowhere productive. I’ll let you have the inevitable last word.

  • Liz Winslow

    Apparently you’ve got plenty of it, and that’s your right. It was not, however, defamation. It was Tony Gleason’s opinion that PARCC was a mess last year (unsurprisingly, I agree with him). That is quite a different matter than calling a person by name corrupt, baselessly. THAT is defamation.

  • Joe

    That Town Topics full page ad against the JWMS used words such as mess, flop and failure based on the results of a flawed test for one year. Talk about defamation. Where’s the outrage?

  • Liz Winslow

    So you’re not on Facebook, but you know all about this group and the posts and comments, and are not willing to get on Facebook to understand what herezaquarter and I are talking about. If you were willing to take that step, you would see immediately why it’s relevant to this article. But you’re not. Nothing left to discuss.

  • BlueBlazer

    No, I am familiar with them. But that post has nothing to do with this article. And it doesn’t say the things you implied.

  • Liz Winslow

    If you truly believe there is no relation to this article, I suggest getting on FB yourself, because you’re missing quite a lot of what goes on in town, especially as regards the schools, by not being on it. Keep PPS Strong was formed in direct response to the PCS expansion. Keep PPS Strong is, as another commenter said, allowing defamation to go on as a grace note to its work. Please familiarize yourself with the group and its extensive following before stating that it has zero to do with this article.

  • herezaquarter

    This thread concerns both the original Facebook post and the comments that followed, so I have offered my thoughts. To be clear, I don’t think Ms. Zimmerman’s comments are just “mean.” I think they are defamatory and despicable. I have concerns about PCS, but I have more concerns about those who launch personal attacks against those with whom they disagree. I would hope that one thing we could all agree on in the Princeton community is that accusing people of corruption without offering proof has no place in our community.

  • BlueBlazer

    I don’t really agree with your take, but putting that aside, what is the point of telling people on Planet Princeton someone wrote a FB post you think is mean?

  • BlueBlazer

    Saying that the FB post accused people of “spreading lies” and said “incredibly unkind” things about Josephson seems pretty deliberately inflammatory to me. Especially when the FB post has zero relation to this Planet Princeton news article.

  • Liz Winslow

    Correction: He is Bruce Baker’s (he of the PCS is #622 in the state sausage-making that JSR presented to the BoE on 12/13/16) grad student.

  • herezaquarter

    The post from Ms. Zimmerman does reference Mr. Josephson “working behind the scenes” and condemns “insider corrupt behavior.” Defaming Mr. Josephson is a pretty sad defense of one’s position.

  • Liz Winslow

    Why the need? It was deliberately inflammatory, and that’s germaine to PP discussion on the schools. As someone who is on FB, when a post is mentioned, the comments that follow it are very much implicit, and that’s where you get to the other stuff (if you’re not on FB, I give you the benefit of the doubt that you legitimately don’t know this). And *you* may not call a $50 difference jaw-dropping, but believe me, to many people in this community, $50 is a deal-breaker. I also said “whisper campaign,” which is different. Whisper campaign = someone originates a lie, and a game of Telephone ensues. “coordinated campaign” = we’ve got a central command on spreading bs. There is a difference.

    The phrasing – “bragged,” “roared approvingly,” etc. – come on. “Stated” and “applauded” would have been just as accurate, without the connotations.

    Anyway, that’s all from me for a while. Got a snow day to attend to.

  • BlueBlazer

    Your original post calls out the FB post. Not the comments. From what I can see as a non-FB member doesn’t seem to match up to your take. But why the need to come to Planet Princeton’s board and broadcast about a FB post?

    I can’t really call a $50 difference “jaw-dropping.” I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say this posting to FB makes a judgement call about PCS being elitist or not. Is $150 more than $100? Sure. But PEF is also trying to raise funds for multiple schools and more students.

    I don’t see where this post accuses anyone of “spreading lies.”

    If you’re going to take issue with the “coordinated campaign” statement, well, that’s your right, but isn’t that the very thing you’ve accused PPS of engaging in? We’ve talked before on this board about your certainty that there is a propaganda campaign against PCS. Isn’t it possible you are just as mistaken as you say this FB poster is?

    I agree that the other stuff isn’t worth addressing because I don’t see anywhere where anything “incredibly unkind” is said about Josephson.

    The only thing mentioned about the rest of the room is that they “roared approvingly.” That’s not “incredibly unkind” either.

  • Liz Winslow

    Thanks Lorie. The reason there are so many more applicants in K and 3 than in other grades is that, ere now, those were the two main entry points (3rd grade has been where a second section of a grade opened up). But yes, in the link you posted, it does show 60-ish applicants for 20-ish spots in K.

  • Liz Winslow

    The comments section on the post absolutely do. Please go read them for yourself before implying I’m making things up. kthxbye

  • Lorie

    It is probably only interesting if you were in the lottery. It shows how many children apply for each grade.

  • BlueBlazer

    A-hah! I see only the one for 2015, and there’s really no info in it, but thanks for pointing me to it. I totally missed that.

  • Lorie

    The link is buried in the Announcements section. I found it with a google search. I will post the links in another comment.

  • Jaimoe

    Here we go again. Nowhere does the above writeup “accuse” you or anyone else of “spreading lies,” as you allege, nor does it say anything a reasonable reader would characterize as “incredibly unkind,” regarding Josephson or “other folks in the room.” In fact, no “other folks in the room” are even identified, so it’s hard to see what “incredibly unkind” things might have been said about them. Moreover, it characterizes Cherry Valley as “posh,” (admittedly a stretch) not the gala itself, as you write, though I suppose that’s splitting hairs. Anyway, another example of a persistent tendency to read things into text that simply aren’t there.

  • Liz Winslow

    It’ll be posted after the lottery. Apparently they’ve taken down prior years’, but every year after the lottery (I think it’s on 4/5 this year), you’ll see a table of students anonymized by numbers and their lottery spots. I will admit memory fails on whether it shows ALL applicants and their spots, or just the ones who got in. In any event, I remember calling a friend last year who’d applied and said they were 12th on the waitlist. Also, like anything else – ask PCS. They’re not mean ogres; on the contrary, they want to address the rumors going around about lottery applications, etc. Ask if they can provide you hard numbers going back years – then if they’ve the time in the midst of all this lawfare, you get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

  • Liz Winslow

    My response is awaiting moderation and must’ve been too long, so in brief:
    1) 80% of proposed increase has nothing to do with PCS
    2) Latino, you’ve got a point. AA, not so much. Also, that’s why I said “notable,” not “causal,” because one can’t be sure – though it bears discussion.
    3) I agree, but my kid needs a school that works NOW. He can’t wait for committees and bureaucracy to sort it all out. If PPS were to conduct a survey of parents who left for PCS, I think they’d get great data that could help a lot of PPS kids. Unfortunately, they don’t.
    4) “Put a sock in it” was emblematic. (And if you stop bringing it up, folks might stop wondering what you’ve said)
    5) Previously I offered to meet with you anonymously to discuss face to face, and you replied that you didn’t owe me a meeting. Well, of course you owe me nothing. But it is harder to be intransigent – for everybody – face to face. Offer stands.

  • Liz Winslow

    Yes, that’s the one. It was sponsored by Friends of PCS, a.k.a. the PTO. I simply find it jaw-dropping that when PEF holds an affair at Jasna Polana and charges $150/ticket, Keep PPS Strong accuses PCS of elitism for going to a country club in the middle of a housing development at $100/ticket.

    Also, I assure you, I (LW), VP, and TG operate quite independently of each other, as do other PCS parents. Really, it’s not a vast conspiracy – it’s a bunch of people who care and are vocal.

    The other stuff – not even worth addressing. But it does make me wonder who paid $100 to come in with a notepad just to see if they could find anything salacious to report.

  • BlueBlazer

    Sorry, where is the lottery info? I can’t locate it on the website.

  • BlueBlazer

    I’m not on FB, but someone who is showed me the following post. Is this the one you’re referring to?

    “The Princeton Charter School held a fundraiser last Saturday. The theme was the roaring 20s and the event was held at the posh Cherry Valley Country Club.

    At the event, PCS Board Chairman Paul Josephson assured everyone that, thanks to to expansion, the Princeton Charter School was financially secure for the next twenty years.

    Josephson, who is a professional lobbyist and member of the statewide NJ Charter School Association board, also bragged about how hard he had to work behind the scenes for three months to arrange the school expansion approvals to be granted.

    Josephson thanked by name three Charter School parents – TG, LW, VP – who have taken out full page ads attacking the Princeton Public Schools and/or have attacked Princeton Public Schools and public school supporters in the comments sections of local online publications, in what appears to have been a coordinated campaign.

    The PCS crowd in attendance roared approvingly.”

  • Liz Winslow

    Oh – they publish the data every year (by anonymous number) on their website after the lottery, who got in. The lottery this year is in early April. Currently they’ve got over 60 applications for 40 K spots (would have been 20K spots absent expansion). But call the school – I’m sure they’ll give you precise documentation.

    That’s something that amazes me – here, or JSR’s assertion there were no autistic kids (my son is one) at PCS, etc. etc., because they couldn’t find the info – has anyone tried calling PCS and simply ASKING? They’re not ogres.

  • Liz Winslow

    ^^80% of budget hike has nothing to do with PCS, that is.

  • Liz Winslow

    1 – with ratables and population increases coming online, as well as waivers, as well as the PEF, this will be a blip. Also, let’s take a deep breath and remember that of the 5% proposed budget hike, over 80% has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH PPS. If you’re worried about PPS funding or taxes, seems you’re going after rather high-hanging fruit with limited impact anyway. You’re also forgetting that if PCS vanished, PPS wouldn’t just get a pile of money and no kids to educate. That would come at a cost. Looking at how PPS can’t seem to make ends meet on $95mm for an I district with 3900 children, of whom 80% of parents have a bachelors and 50% have an advanced degree – I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’d suddenly find a way to educate on the cheap. Remember – 10% holdback.

    2 – Yes, that’s why I said they’re “notable,” not “fact.” It bears discussion. Latino population, I will grant you, tended to be lower for years, but African American population was right in line until it dropped by half in about one year. Besides, PCS is no “whiter” than any other elementary, at about 55%. Asian diversity is marvelous, and many of those kids are first generation/immigrants themselves with English as a second language. Also notable: Julia Sass Rubin was condemned several years ago
    for saying lower income applicants don’t have the “bandwidth” to
    research schools. Look it up yourself, as links don’t go through on PP.
    You don’t think some people took that as condescending? They sure did in other districts, but apparently JSR has enough support in Princeton that that little sound byte never got play around here.

    3 – It is good in theory and practice, but practice takes time. I cannot let my child go unserved for the next several years while committees are formed and solutions hashed out by a large bureaucracy; I’m taking him to a school that works. I’d be delighted to talk to anyone from PPS (especially the administration) about the problems we encountered; Lord knows it would be easier, had he gotten services, to stay at PPS rather than fight for PCS. In case you ever lurk on my FB page, I posted Friday in glowing terms about Riverside’s special ed teachers and their handling of my youngest child. I’m not anti-PPS; I’m pro what’s good for my kids, each one of them. But I can’t wait for bureaucracy to catch up to the needs of my oldest.

    4 – “Put a sock in it” was quite enough to give the general gist. If anyone else is so inclined to go through Blue Blazer’s and my PP exchanges, go for it. As it is, I think you’re going to find that nobody but you cares that much, and should probably drop it instead of constantly bringing it up and only making people wonder “hm, what DID s/he say?”

    5 – One other thing – I offered to meet for a cup of coffee, never divulge your true identity, and have a civilized conversation face to face. Your response was that you don’t owe me a meeting. Well, of course you owe me nothing. But while we’re diametrically opposed on PCS, I give Martha Friend a lot of credit for making the same offer to me and coming out to listen to the stories of my kids and other PCS families. Ground rules were nobody disparaged either district, but we’d try to understand each other’s POV. And unsurprisingly, after meeting face to face, I don’t think anyone came away feeling like anyone else was (at least not 100%) a bad, ill-intentioned, uncaring, un-community-minded person.

    Frankly, it’s easier to see someone as a soulless supervillain when all you have to go by is the internet, which misses tone. I am extending you the benefit of the doubt that you are educated, involved, and have the best interests of all children at heart, despite our at times prickly exchanges. I would be heartened if you’d do the same to me. The internet often does not lend itself well to such conversations.

  • Liz Winslow

    BTW, for anyone at home keeping track of the new posting on Keep PPS Strong about PCS’s “posh” gala – which accused me and two other PCS parents of spreading lies on PP and FB, in addition to saying some incredibly unkind things about Paul Josephson and other folks in the room – it’s a fun fact that PPS’s gala tickets cost 50% more than PCS’s. If you want to talk about exclusion of lower income families, my, isn’t that interesting?

  • BlueBlazer

    1 – I’m missing where this addresses my comments. PCS claims designating X amount of district funds for their exclusive use has zero impact on PPS, which is untrue.

    2 – The idea that enough parents had to pull their kids out of private school, and all of these parents got accepted into PCS, which drove down the level of diversity is a whole lot of “arguably could.” As far as SOS-NJ, even if this was their one issue (which it isn’t), and even if they were “shouting it from the rooftops” right after the crisis (haven’t seen any evidence) you really think that diverse applicants are so easily swayed? You don’t think they can look into issues themselves? Lastly, look at the history of economic diversity at PCS and you’ll see a drop long before the 2008 crisis.

    3 – It’s not only good in theory, it’s something that helps build better schools. It’s something my family has had to do for life threatening conditions. Knowing things will be easier and safer for other families was a great motivator for us to push for changes. As an aside, would love to see some actual data about PCS’ much touted waitlist.

    4 – On a different topic, I’m curious when you’re going to cite all the insults you alleged I’ve been throwing at you.

  • Liz Winslow

    The funds follow the child – to a point. The district holds back 10% of costs to account for stranded costs (e.g., heating a classroom costs the same whether 20 or 22 kids are in it). Then there may be other adjustments. In any event, PCS never gets more than 90% per capita, so they are forced to make do on less.

    PCS’s AA enrollment was actually right in line with PPS’s until 2009-10 when two notable things happened: 1) the financial crisis, which arguably could have caused kids to be pulled from private school who entered the lottery, and b) the founding of SOS-NJ, which is all about shouting from the rooftops that PCS is segregated and racist. While I am extra-loud, I think it was a mistake on PCS’s part not to address these scurrilous accusations from the start, instead hoping sanity would prevail.

    While your last paragraph sounds good in theory, it’s awfully hard in practice when your child is not getting badly-needed services. Why doesn’t PPS conduct exit interviews or surveys of parents who’ve tried the district and left for charter, find out their reasons, and address them? If they were willing to do some self-reflection, PCS would die from lack of demand. As it is, the fact that 10% of a district’s students vote with their feet to PCS, another 10% or so try to given the waitlist, and an unknown number go to private school who are hard to track – that should cause some serious introspection at PPS that does not seem to be taking place.

  • BlueBlazer

    PCS frequently uses the “funds follow the child” argument to sidestep the reality that delegating district funds for their exclusive use will have impact on PPS.

    PCS is also a self-contained institution that doesn’t have to answer to the community at large, as demonstrated clearly in their latest expansion effort.

    Overall, PCS enrolls fewer diverse students in proportion to PRS. This can skew how budgets appear, leading to the claim that PCS is more efficient than PPS.

    Lastly, if students aren’t being properly served by public schools, simply pulling them out does a disservice to the entire school population. If a system is failing someone, figuring out why and fixing this will benefit all currently enrolled and future students. This requires action on the side of both parents and school staff. Pulling this off can be difficult, but the end result is a stronger system that benefits all students, not a select few who are lucky enough to get a random number pulled out of a hat.

  • Bob Schwartz

    Even if these generalities are true, I’m missing what this has to do with PCS & PPS. You can’t be saying that if charters as a whole underperform or cost more per student they should all be shut down (or, equivalently, merged into their host districts).

    I wasn’t pro-expansion, but PCS seems to do very good work at roughly the same cost as PPS’s K-8 schools, and provides a valuable alternative for some children who for whatever reason aren’t well-served in PPS.

  • Liz Winslow

    He’s also JSR’s grad student (maybe he finished the Ph.D, not sure), and Bruce Baker is the guy she cited when she told the Princeton BoE that PCS ranked 623rd in the state… come on. It would be nice if you’d mention that all these sources work together in what’s basically a charter school pod at Rutgers; otherwise it seems like a whole bunch of people independent of each other are spouting this nonsense. BTW, not once in your quote was PCS, or outperforming charters (and even Baker concedes there are some, by name) were mentioned as even existing, let alone by name.

  • Joe

    From the JerseyJazzman web site: Quote – The greatest fiction produced by the New Jersey charter school industry — and, for that matter, charter cheerleaders nationwide — is that charter school funds simply “follow the student,” and have no impact on district finances or programs.
    This is nonsense. Charters are self-contained, redundant school districts that are usually so small that they can’t leverage economies of scale. Empirical research shows charters have had detrimental effects of the finances of districts in New York State and Michigan. Furthermore, while there is variation across the nation, Bruce Baker and I have shown that charters, on average, spend less on instruction than public district schools.
    And I have shown clearly New Jersey’s charter schools spend far more on administrative costs and far less on student support services than their public district hosts. Keep in mind these support costs are for the services special education students need the most; however, charters enroll, proportionally, far fewer of these students than the public district schools. Charter schools are, therefore, a serious fiscal burden on public schools. End quote
    Jersey Jazzman is Mark Weber, teacher and scholar

  • Liz Winslow

    May I just say that we’ve just discussed an issue on schooling where Martha Friend and I are in total agreement? (Although over time on PP I’ve gathered we are on other issues as well). Anything is possible! 🙂

  • Martha Friend

    Mr. Verbeyst- A child between ages of 2-20 who is a resident of NJ, regardless of citizenship status, is entitled to a free public education. This is not open to discussion. It is the law. If you would like to know how many staff members’ children (like mine) are in the school district, get yourself to Valley Road and make the request for the number. If you think your child has suffered from having my children in the district with him, that’s your right. I am VERY secure in the benefits having my own children in PPS have brought to Littlebrook, JW, PHS and the larger Princeton community.

  • Liz Winslow

    Have you seen the piece on Princeton Patch that originated from Central Jersey dot com about how the BoE is looking at a FIVE percent tax hike? That’s not Charter. That’s gross incompetence at managing a budget. Hope you have your extra $363 on average ready, and know that the vast majority of that has nothing to do with Charter!

  • Liz Winslow

    Anyway, why did you delete your comment recommending folks read her letter in this week’s Town Topics re PARCC, which was the genesis of this thread? Especially if you’re defending her scholarship here. Serious question.

  • George

    In an ideal world, there would be just one school board that supervises both PPS and PCS. Of course, that requires no hostility and a school board that is truly independent and respects parent choices.

  • Liz Winslow

    As someone who spent many hours herself the other week (some with my own kids in tow) distributing dual-language flyers about PCS info sessions to predominantly Spanish-speaking areas (John Street, Birch Street, etc.), a resounding YES to outreach. The Clay Street housing, Princeton Community Village, and other lower income areas also received information about the school and the lottery.

  • Joe

    Just asking. Did PCS do outreach to the more working class neighborhoods or even send applications to said neighborhoods? It would be interesting to compare the percentage of wealthy families ($250K and up) at PPS as compared to PCS?

  • Liz Winslow

    Hi Kenneth – I don’t have any idea about how many kids are undocumented in Princeton’s schools, but I’d be awfully surprised if either PPS or PCS looked at documentation beyond that required to demonstrate need for free/reduced lunch, etc., and I couldn’t envision either school district calling for the deportation of a student or his/her family based on immigration status. As for other residents, there have never been any students at PCS who are not Princeton residents because the wait list for residents is too long. Not sure about PPS.

  • Liz Winslow

    Good grief. If someone is holding herself out as an expert in the subject matter whose goal is the best for communities, it is not ad hominem to look at the actions that follow those words. Talking about someone’s appearance, tastes, etc.? That’s ad hominem. Talking about questionable math and motives? That’s inquiring. What’s getting tiresome is the lack of ability to see that it’s even possible that JSR might not have the One True Writ on public school education. It’s like some folks go under a spell when her name is mentioned.

  • Kenneth Verbeyst

    not knowing all facets of application process, do applicants have their legal residency status checked at both PCS and PPS similarly? Is it possible a higher proportion of undocumented attend PPS to lessen chances of being discovered/deported? This could skew numbers. Of the 3600+ students, how many are illegally residing here ? How many are non residents besides Cranbury? (staff members’ children who reside outside Princeton for example)

  • George

    Its also the case that having a small school is an impediment to having more underrepresented students. Think about it, each of these groups is only about 10% at PPS (and how proud they are of it!). In an incoming grade of 20 students, that only means 1-2 kids. Well, maybe parents don’t want their kid to be the only one of a kind in the class. Having a larger incoming class will allow them to have a larger group of underrepresented students so they would not be isolated.

  • Liz Winslow

    That is factually untrue. Weighted lotteries were only just made legal. What *is* true is that the year PCS African American student population went out of whack vs. PPS in 2009-2010 is 1) it was on the heels of the financial crisis, when presumably kids were pulled out of private and may have entered the lottery, and 2) SOS-NJ was created and told anyone who would listen that minorities of any kind were unwelcome at PCS (which is hogwash). Also untrue are common assertions that there are no special ed students; while fewer than PPS, the hard numbers there are 24 speech-only and 9 other. One of the “other” is my autistic son, so you understand my gasp when a certain expert ran a slide saying there were zero autistic students at PCS.

  • Joe

    There’s a whole cottage industry based on smearing, swift boating and demeaning JSR. Ad hominem attacks against JSR are becoming tiresome. By the way, when will PCS be having a school board elected by all the residents of Princeton?

  • Joe

    PCS could have could have tweaked its admission process years ago to admit more poor students, more English language leaners and more special ed students with the more serious problems. There’s no need to expand its enrollment to accomplish the goal of a more diverse student body.

  • George

    Show me her actual data and we can discuss it. All I’ve seen is some meaningless ranking generated by an unspecified algorithm. As for her general arguments regarding reasons why PARCC scores are invalid – there is no point in discussing them. If you don’t believe that standardized tests provide useful information in comparing school performance, then there is no basis at all for an objective comparison.

  • Liz Winslow

    I attended Charter Lobby Day in Trenton on 2/27. I’d actually had more nuanced views about arguably failing districts, because there the ratable base is so low that a charter really does put the screws to a district already in dire shape (unlike Princeton, which by any measure, whether you agree with a charter here or note, is darn well-funded). What I came away with, after hearing the stories of so many people from Newark, Paterson, and Camden desperate for their kids to succeed is this:

    There are an awful lot of (relatively) rich white people presuming to tell an awful lot of poorer black and brown people what is best for their kids, as though they don’t know themselves or can’t be trusted to make an informed decision. And that is serious food for thought about the anti-charter movement as a whole.

  • Dan D’Menny

    Within Princeton, the arguments that a) PPS generally does a good job and b) the marginal revenue (vs. smaller marginal expenses) of $$$’s and less-expensive-to-educate students lost to PCS will place a burden on education overall, actually makes sense to me. I understand both sides, especially if we want to bury the high-cost of educating special needs kids among a broad population.

    But the real statist/socialists/NEA’ers are exposed when they argue that we (the taxpayers) should continue to fund the failed school districts of Trenton, Camden, etc. and prevent Charters from being started there as well. No concern is offered to the parents/students who might actually prefer to be educated at an alternative school (and who don’t have the extra $15k~$25k/year to do so out-of-pocket). The government-monopoly school districts know all and they are omniscient wrto the best use of 55% of NJ’s $28billion in property taxes.

    There are plenty of special interests involved who regularly pass off their opinion as the “public’s interest.” Consultants, statutory-required specialists, teachers’ unions, well-paid district administrators are all beneficiaries of the public school complex. They fund a lot of NJ’s political campaigns as well.

    In my opinion, the most important special interest are the parent(s) who want the best education possible for their child. Some version of taxpayer-financed school choice allows that.

  • Liz Winslow

    The issue is that she has repeatedly said she’s not against charter schools – but as you yourself just said – her actions and that of the organization she helped found say otherwise. That implies a level of disingenuousness from the get. So of course her data was dissected. And “George” and I are not the only people who question it. As for Bruce Baker – he was the source of her since-removed slide to the PPS BoE alleging that PCS was #623rd in the state, which I think we all can agree is removed from reality. Again, scholar ≠ infallible, and this town is full of scholars who are not on board with her arguments.

  • BlueBlazer

    Again, I have to agree. Being opposed to charter schools doesn’t invalidate her arguments. I see more attacks on her than on her data.

  • Liz Winslow

    I don’t think any, because they’re separate school districts. What happens in PPS, stays in PPS. They probably would be happy to share best practices, though.

  • George

    When complicated models promoted by proponents of a particular point of view contradict plain numbers, which would you trust more?

  • Liz Winslow

    Scholar ≠ infallible
    Nobody is. It baffles me that she is considered so by many.

  • Joe

    Julia Sass Rubin is a scholar, she is very scrupulous and meticulous concerning her research. The same goes for Bruce Baker.

  • BlueBlazer

    Agreed. PARCC is not the goal post we want to use for determining success at schools. Stadardized tests are flawed for multiple well documented reasons, and PARCC is no exception.

  • BlueBlazer

    I don’t hold out much hope for this step, but I’m glad our school board is pursuing it. PCS pretty much holds all the cards in these situations, and they are aware of that. Until there is more oversight of decisions like the expansion, PRS is always going to be playing defense. Try to imagine what the situation would be like if one our public elementary schools got preference for budget and planning decisions. I would be curious to know what sort of implementation PCS would consider “minimal impact” for this decision.

  • Liz winslow

    It’s ALMOST LIKE when Julia Sass Rubin’s possible scholarship-bleeding-into-special-interest-group (that is, SOS-NJ) went long and loud that PCS became terribly discriminatory circa 2009-2010… when 1) the financial crisis happened, and a lot of private students went public, and 2) SOS-NJ was formed to tell anyone who’d listen about how charters didn’t want minority or ELL students, and they might have had an ear. It’s ALMOST LIKE there’s a coincidence in the smoke and mirrors. Almost.

    Just kind of how it’s ALMOST LIKE Rubin used her status as an academic to de facto threaten another parent and me to shut up, lest our Facebook comments regarding PCS be used in an academic article she was writing up on the effects of charter schools on communities, casting us in a disparaging light. It’s ALMOST LIKE intimidation, isn’t it? ALMOST LIKE someone’s gotten so close to the boundaries between scholarship and special interest she might have forgotten where they are?

    And I mean, it’s ALMOST LIKE she supported freedom of the press – until Planet Princeton ran an article daring to cite her own slide as her work, and Rubin threatened to sue. Gosh, on the same day the Latino Coalition filed suits against 6 schools – at least one with a Latina head – and anyone with Google could figure out the head of this group and Rubin had been working together for years. It’s ALMOST LIKE something – or, many things – improper happened under the guise of scholarship.

    BTW, just to refresh everyone’s memory, Rubin sent her own daughter to PCS during the year she was forming SOS-NJ, along with the outgoing president of the BoE and the mayor. Tricky tricky on the motivations there, eh?

    Far be it from me to make a personal attack; Lord knows I wouldn’t stop here. But having made this issues of public interest, Rubin owes answers/clarifications on them all.

  • George

    I have looked at PARCC scores in detail. For some middle school grades the comparison is indeed a little tricky, because not all students take the same classes in the same grade and there is smaller participation in JW. But for 6th grade and for elementary school the data are directly comparable by grade, the participation is high in all schools, the numbers are separated by race, and the spreadsheets are available for 2 years.
    Here is a comparison for one race category:
    %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%

    Similar pattern exists in all grades from 3rd to 6th for both years: The percentage of students exceeding expectations in each race group is more than twice higher at PCS than at PPS. Regarding underrepresented groups, PCS does not have enough students to compare, but PPS does not compare well to other schools with similar demographics in terms of academic achievement of minority students, I had posted some data on another thread here.

    So everything that Julia Sass Rubin says is just smoke and mirrors. She is a well-known opponent of charter schools, you can google her activities. So download PARCC spreadsheets and check for yourself, don’t believe her propaganda.

  • herezaquarter

    It won’t be deemed frivolous, even if the Appellate Division completely rejects PPS’s arguments. PPS has an extremely high burden to overcome. It happens, but it is very rare.

  • Robert Dana

    Probably not. The American rule in this regard is that each side pays its own legal fees no matter what the outcome; unless the relevant legislature – here the State of NJ – provides otherwise. I doubt it has. (See below.)

    In many other countries, its the opposite – loser pays the winner’s legal fees. In these places, there’s much less litigation.

    Attempts to change this rule – or even ameliorate it within reason – have been met with fierce opposition by the most powerful lobby in America. No. Not the NRA. But, ATLA – the American [plaintiffs’] Trial Lawyers’ Association.

  • Liz Winslow

    I’m not a lawyer, but anyone who is one – if this is deemed truly frivolous, is PPS then on the hook to PCS for legal fees? Mind you, yes or no doesn’t thrill me either way because I’m still a Princeton taxpayer.

  • Robert Dana

    Having had the time to look into this, I think that’s right. The decision of the Commisioner may not be overturned by the Appellate Court unless it is deemed to be arbitrary & capricious. A pretty high standard.

    It’s too bad the PPS Board & Superindendent are using other people’s money with respect to these decisions. If it were their own, they might not be such big spenders.

  • CharterMom

    From what I understand, it is a very very high standard for the school district to get the expansion overturned. Apparently, no appeal has been granted ever as to an opening, expansion or closure decision by the commission of the department of education.

  • Liz Winslow

    ^^don’t think he would have been INcorrect, I meant.

  • Liz Winslow

    I really don’t know enough about PARCC to have meaningful input on the value of the test itself (however, NJASK, apples to apples, and PCS also uses ERBs, with most students participating). However, three issues pop out:
    1) The academic cited in her letter (Bruce Baker) self-refers and uses his own model to come up with efficiency. Bruce Baker is the same source she got the now-removed slide for her December presentation to the BoE saying that Charter ranked 623rd in the state, which I think we can all agree is, ahem, a bit of a reach.
    2) A slight diversion off topic, but an interesting idea raised to me recently by somebody involved in psychometrics is that high opt-out rates in wealthier schools can have the effect of making high test-taker rates at poorer schools look better than they really are, and thus those poorer (performing and monetarily) schools may be denied funding. This was in the context of NYC, not NJ, but it poses an interesting question: even if the test isn’t perfect, is there a social responsibility to take it, looked at through that lens?
    3) Those who took it, took it. Tony Gleason may have been off in deriving “failure” rates vs. the entire population, but we can’t know if the rest of that population would have passed or failed, so I don’t think he would have been correct had he phrased “failure among test-takers.”

    Curious about any thoughts on any of these.

  • Liz Winslow

    Well said.

  • Liz Winslow

    Sorry, not something I’m familiar with. I would *think* there’s got to be some piece of evidence that is material and went unconsidered, as no ruling ever would be solid if those who didn’t like it could just appeal against it and win. But I’m curious, too.

  • Joe

    Please read the excellent letter by Julia Sass Rubin at the Town Topics site. She debunks all the nonsense concerning the PARCC test. She points out that about 22% of JWS students opted out of the test, rendering its results meaningless.

  • Robert Dana

    Does anyone know the ‘standard of review’ that will be employed by the State court in hearing this appeal? Is there deference given to the Commssioner’s ruling or is it a so-called ‘de novo’ review. (If the former, a continued waste of taxpayer money.)

    Ms. Winslow? Ms. Knapp?

  • FreshAir

    “trying” to manage… i think the narrative of the “evil” state vs. the “innocent” BOE & District is the questionable narrative. Why, for example, was our young super immediately paid at the top of his grade, when more experienced supers in larger Districts nearby earn less? This is something I’m not sure you can blame on the state.
    There’s absolutely no argument that justifies Cranbury getting a discount on our cost per pupil, then having subsidized by our elderly & young taxpaying families,
    You feel Cranbury is “adding value”? Please explain precisely what they add in straight talk, because our Distrcit says our pressing needs are space & dollars. What I hear they add is not what our town, that professes to embrace diversity & opportunity for the underserved is about.
    There’s no point going on, with those who defend meetings where myths are churned & inequities are unchallenged. You attended an exercise, a formality, a list-reading… it wasn’t a true work session, if nothing to cut was found or no serious cost saving alternatives were discussed.
    No one in that room was working to keep our community unified, strong, & thriving.

  • Liz Winslow

    Hi Anne,

    First – agreed on local institutions paying more.

    Second – the cost aspect has been litigated 8 ways to Sunday online so I won’t rehash it again here, except to say that if those 76 kids remained at PPS, PPS would have the cost of educating them. Also, with more housing and ratables coming online, I think this will end up being a mere blip. The budget impact is about 1%, and PPS does have quite a rainy day fund banked that they neglect to publicize. I truly don’t believe PCS would have advanced this if they thought it would hurt the sending district; most of our kids end up at PHS, after all.

    Third – the numbers on Cranbury I’ve noticed tend to shift based on who’s quoting them, but seems that everyone agrees that there’s a discrepancy between tuition received and services provided to the tune of between $1mm and $2mm. I understand that PPS is now locked in to providing services to Cranbury until 2020 based on a fixed formula, but the time to renegotiate is now, when Cranbury can either pay the market rate (and maybe even a true-up), or have two years to find other schools that are about as good and closer to home. Also, Cranbury’s rep to the BOE is appointed, if memory serves.

    Fourth – regrettably I missed the budget workshop last night as I was on kid duty, but I’ll be looking out for it if available on public access. I think there are plenty of must-haves, but at the end of the day – $95mm for 3900 students (that includes Charter and its costs) is way out of whack for surrounding districts, which have similar populations and proficiency. That’s something I’d like explained on simply a common-sense basis. Going back to Cranbury, there’s now talk of floating a bond issue to expand at PHS… when the overcrowding is arguably caused by 240-ish kids where the district takes a financial loss on every one. And Princeton taxpayers will be on the hook for that (an interesting data point is that PPS already pays more in debt service every year than it remits to PCS – and it’s talking more debt to serve an already subsidized population)? It simply makes no sense.

  • Anne

    100% agree that PPS needs to focus on raising revenue from the institutions in town that own a lot of residential property and that educate and/or employee short-term residents that use the schools and other services while they are here. My understanding is the Board is focused on increasing what these institutions contribute.
    Unlike submitting an expansion application to the state and in three months having it approved such that $800K+ of non-discretionary expense gets immediately added to the coming year’s budget, realigning the financial aspects of the district’s relationships with these institutions takes time; hopefully that work does bear fruit sooner rather than later.

    Cranbury sends $5 million a year to the school district versus taking almost $6 million. In a fixed cost operation, filling seats adds much more value than emptying them. Cranbury has an elected rep on the school board. Cranbury does not have redundant administration and buildings for which Princeton taxpayers are paying on-going upkeep and operation.

    Can you specify what numbers are being misquoted? Were you at the Financial Workshop last night to listen to the justification for each line item in the 2017-18 budget? None of the estimated capital or discretionary expenses on it were frivolous or nice-to-haves. Some of it still may be cut. The majority of it is mandated, cranked through mandated software from the state, and then goes up to the county for further review. The hackneyed narrative of evil admin vs. innocent families and students is so much more dramatic and interesting than what really goes on in trying to manage and budget in a school district.

  • FreshAir

    If the expansion matter has become a competition or fight between Cochrane and Josephson, and they have lost objectivity, neither of them are fit for their jobs.

  • FreshAir

    Then why aren’t PPS administrators actively planning to have Cranbury pay full per pupil costs, negotiating with the sending universities for the cost per pupil, trimming administrative overhead with inexpensive available technologies, outsourcing, & taking pay cuts, rather than sacrificing princeton kids & families? We have a total of 3620+- Princeton resident kids to educate & that should be the priority. All else is secondary. Why it is it so easy for this District to spend money on expensive consultants & attorneys, while shopping for new office space. and so hard for it to serve & save our families & our kids? Why doesn’t the District sell Valley Road, and use trailers for storage?

  • Anne

    A majority of the other districts with approved charter expansions are being funded for the most part, some more than 90%, by the state and not by local taxpayers. So if that’s how the state wants to manage its portfolio in those districts, how much leverage would local admin have. Here, it’s the complete opposite. At the PPS Budget Workshop tonight, you could clearly see the hit that an additional $800k+ (first year of expansion) of non-discretionary expense will take on either the quality of the education that we’re already paying a high enough price to maintain, or on our taxes. It was one of, if not the, largest deltas in the 2017-18 budget. I am by no means hoping for any kind of litigation, but I understand that the PPS Board and Admin want to advocate to keep the quality of our public school education high and not saddle local taxpayers with a 5% or more tax increase to do so, because of an additional $1.2 million per year of non-discretionary expense from which not one of the 3700 students within their purview will benefit.

  • George

    What is wrong with Patrick “we would use every legal means at our disposal” Sullivan and Steve Cochrane?! They should work on running the school system, not waging legal battles. For some perspective, NJ Department of Education just approved expansion at 21 charter schools, increasing their total number of seats from 10251 to 16444. On average it represents an expansion by 60% of their current size or 295 students per school on average. In contrast, PCS is expanding by only 76 students or 22% of its current size.
    Now, where is the outrage by all the other superintendents and BOE presidents? I cannot find any news articles about any of them waging a public relation campaign against their charter school expansion. They will all lose just as much funding per student and most of those districts are not as well-off as Princeton. Perhaps they are too busy actually running the schools and also don’t have funds to hire outside law firms.
    Whether you were for or against PCS expansion, this public relations and legal battle is just a waste of resources and should stop.

  • herezaquarter

    There are many competitors who drive each other forward to new heights. That might not be cooperation, but it is a good end result. Those who view things as a zero sum game might disagree, of course.

  • Joe

    Bravo to Steve Cochrane, enough is enough. Work collaboratively according to Josephson? Hasn’t he heard that charter schools are all about competition not collaboration. The charter cheerleaders (I am NOT talking about the parents at PCS) are constantly pushing the competition meme. News flash, competition is not collaboration and does not lead to collegiality, especially when you are vying for limited funds and resources.

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