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HoLa BOE President: Hoboken School District's Appeal Will Cost Taxpayers

City superintendent's claim that there is no lawsuit against charter school is 'factually incorrect,' Barbara Martinez says.

Dear Residents,

Yesterday, our city’s superintendent posted a letter that claimed that there “is no lawsuit against HoLa.”

This is factually incorrect. 

While the Hoboken Superintendent of Schools posted a copy of the petition against the Department of Education and HoLa, he failed to provide a copy of the Notice of Appeal filed with the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division, by the attorney for the Board of Education on April 14, 2014. 

This is most certainly a lawsuit.  To call a challenge against a state agency’s determination – a determination ultimately reviewable in the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division, anything less than a lawsuit is unconscionably misleading. 

By filing its appeal against the Department of Education and HoLa over our expansion approval, the Hoboken Board of Education set into motion a very expensive litigation process that is costing taxpayers money to prosecute and to defend. The Hoboken Board of Ed trustees voted in March to spend at least $20,000 for litigation costs expressly to try to use legal avenues to stop HoLa students from staying with us until 8th grade, and HoLa must spend its taxpayer funded per-pupil revenue meant for instruction on legal costs instead.

This is a terrible situation for our students and for Hoboken taxpayers and we sincerely hope the Hoboken Board of Education will stop immediately by dropping this expensive lawsuit.

HoLa (Hoboken Dual Language Charter School) is a free, public charter school that went through a rigorous vetting process with the Department of Education to receive approval to expand to become a K-8 school, from a K-6 school.  Last month, the World Languages section of the state education department named HoLa a model school for 2014, an incredibly prestigious designation in the state of New Jersey based on our successful results in teaching children in two languages—Spanish and English. Indeed, according to state test results, HoLa ranks in the 99th percentile among our state peer group in academic achievement. (Those tests are taken in English.) All around, we have a very successful public school—that operates on half of the per-pupil taxpayer funding that the Hoboken district operates on.

The Board of Education, by filing its lawsuit, is claiming that HoLa’s expansion will have “a significant impact” on the children attending the district schools.

It is important that residents take a close look at the facts regarding that statement. HoLa’s expansion will have ZERO impact on Hoboken’s school district FY 2015 budget (the budget they are voting on next week). Indeed, the expansion has ZERO impact until FY 2016 because our current 5th graders won’t get to 7th grade until then. Once they do, in FY 2016, the impact that first year is $198,000 (18 students X $11,000 per pupil revenue). By 2018, when we have a full class of 7th and 8th graders, the impact will be less than $500,000.  Overall, Hoboken public schools spend $64 million.  HoLa’s expansion represents well less than 1% of that. To say that it is HoLa’s expansion—and not the 99% of other costs—that will impact the district defies mathematical logic.

HoLa educates 10% of the public school population in Hoboken, yet only uses 4.6% of the overall public school budget to do so.

Finally, the lawsuit claims that HoLa’s expansion will have a segregative effect on the city’s schools.  Because every year we have over 250 applicants for just 44 spots in Kindergarten, HoLa students are subject to a random lottery by state law. HoLa is hopeful that the state will allow us to preference low-income students in next year’s lottery.  Even though we are subject to a random lottery, however, our student population demographics mirror the city’s population in terms of poverty status. And, we educate double the percentage of Hispanic students as the city’s overall Hispanic population.

Residents should be very concerned about this lawsuit. On Tuesday, May 6, the Board of Ed will approve an increase to taxpayers of 4% and claim that at least part of that is due to HoLa. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sincerely,

Barbara Martinez

Board President

Hoboken Dual Language Charter School

pdq May 09, 2014 at 07:40 AM
Joe, I spent the better part of my day attempting to provide insightful information to assist you in understanding the deep impacts caused under the state's current charter funding laws. I see many of the posts have been deleted and honestly, do not want to waste my time if some on this board are going to delete details they may not like presented. I sincerely hope that you will take your time, review the information available on the topics discussed and come to an objective understanding of this extremely important topic that effects all students (district and charter) , taxpayers and the community at large.
pdq May 09, 2014 at 09:38 AM
pg 2 #4 https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8w6D79DFZy_TkhPTlNxbzhuYktPZjFqUVZwZDRDc0dpbnc0/edit?pli=1 "not opposed to k-6"
demosthenes May 09, 2014 at 11:03 AM
"pdq May 08, 2014 at 05:46 PM Sadly, I believe that you sincerely believe what you were being told, by those seeking to manipulate this situation. The K-5 costs were already absorbed and did not have significant financial impacts. The 6th grade expansion with no corresponding aid, along with lowered aid and the cap have caused the financial issues you see. Adequacy is a major issue and the state needs to consider what effects the expansion will have moving forward." No PDQ - I am not misinformed but it does appear that you may be. The K-5 costs have not been fully absorbed because as the school matures the classes are filled with a greater percentage of Hoboken resident children which increases costs. ECS's costs are continuing to rise even though the school is fully mature because its population of Hoboken resident children is still rising. The costs of Hoboken's existing Charters will not be "fully absorbed" until the % of Hoboken resident children stabilizes for the long term. The cost of the expansion to 6th grade in this budget year consists only of the cost of the 6th grade class, not as is continually misunderstood, the cost of the new kindergarten class that would be come in anyway. Since the 6th grade has few students (19?) and even fewer hoboken resident students (14-15?) the increased costs properly attributable to the expansion to 6th grade this year is less than $200,000 ($184,500 if there are 15 Hoboken resident students at $12,300 each). As you point out the proposed expansion to 7th & 8th grade costs nothing this year since it hasn't happened yet. The claim that the financial issues facing the schools are principally caused by the less than $200,000 cost of expansion to 6th grade is simply not credible which is why folks like Joe feel (or can persuade others to feel) that HoLa's expansion is being unfairly scapegoated.
pdq May 09, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Dem, it seems that you are suggesting that there is no impact to district and taxpayers when charter schools are created and expanded. Yet, on the other hand you say the 460k increase(your number) makes a bad situation worse. I provided data from the budget meeting you provided your numbers. You claim that it is a misstatement that k-5 was absorbed because not all the students are Hoboken students and that number can increase which increases future costs. You then go on to say that the 7th grade will only be 19 students so the costs wont be so high. which is it? Do you not understand that incremental costs can be absorbed but large new amounts cannot? The expansion is approved for full 7th and 8th grade capacity. The district is fully aware that only 13 or 18 students attending the 5th grade will eventually turn into 40-44 and based on that this expansion is extremely detrimental to the fiscal situation. Which all goes back to the same point. Funding should not go through the district schools. Each district should be separate. If it is not going to be separate, the state should ensure that districts are fully funded and not impacted by unfunded state cost increases. If the state wants to open more districts- fine. great. But don't make district's b,c and d impacted by the expansion of e. And yes all of the charter schools will also be impacted. The charter funding law has to be changed. Hola is not being scapegoated. The district is asking the state to be responsible for creating the issues it has created. Furthermore, had you or anyone fully read the appeal petition you would know that it is specifically stated that the district does NOT oppose k-6. " Dr. Toback wrote to Mr. Cerf objecting, not to the renewal of HoLa’s charter for grades K-6, but as to the request to expand to 7th and 8th grade." Attached as Exhibit B is a true and authentic copy of Dr. Toback’s letter to former Commissioner Cerf and only asks that - Expansion not be granted until a remedial plan has been implemented and proven effective. Had Hola's director followed the correct procedures and filed the expansion separately, the fear mongering would not be possible. But she didn't follow the procedure and nor did the state so the community has chosen to believe what rumors are spread. You chose not to believe the superintendent, Education Law Center and professionals who have written thousands of pages on the effects of current funding laws,that is up to you.
MadisonMonroe May 09, 2014 at 09:54 PM
The bottom line is that Hoboken school district spends too much money. The superintendent and school board members don't want to live within their means, which translates into tax hikes for the rest of us. We're supposed to believe the mumbo jumbo that Hola is the problem when it's clear that the Hoboken authorities have driven us into a hole and the board members are too financially illiterate to put on the brakes.

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