Public Meeting on Proposed Virtual Charter School Tonight
Virtual charter school could delay opening if funding regulation not addressed, founder says.
School officials have scheduled a Tuesday night public meeting to discuss a proposed virtual charter school that state education officials have said could cost the school district more than $15 million, the district announced.
In an Oct. 28 letter, the state Education Department informed Superintendant Barbara Pinsak that the proposed Garden State Virtual Charter School could draw students from Teaneck, leading to a potential cost of more than $15 million. The charter school has not yet been approved, and the actual costs would depend on how many Teaneck students enroll.
In a Nov. 19 letter emailed to Teaneck district officials, lead charter school founder Jason Flynn said the school would delay opening if the state does not address specific issues with virtual schools.
"As is clearly detailed in our charter school application, our proposed program would be a statewide initiative. It was never intended to be a local (Teaneck) district school, drawing large numbers of students and resources from Teaneck, or any other one community," Flynn wrote. "Should the New Jersey Department of Education (Office of Charter Schools) approve our Charter Application, but amend it / restrict it to just a single school district, our board intends to decline the charter approval and not implement the school. Rather, the school would await specific legislative or regulatory changes that would permit unrestricted statewide student enrollment prior to launching our program."
Teaneck is not required to budget the full amount for the proposed charter and the amount was only a projection for the district, Education Department officials have said. Flynn has said the school would cater to students with specific needs, including students in urban areas.
The virtual school has proposed to serve 1,000 K-12 students statewide in its first year. State officials calculated the projected cost by attributing the maximum possible enrollment to Teaneck students, but the school plans to accept students from across the state. Flynn, a Township resident and public school parent, has said the school would not draw the majority of its students from Teaneck.
The state’s letter to Pinsak said the sum was for “planning purposes,” but school officials contend they cannot ignore the cost projection. Pinsak has said that the state's final list of students attending the charter would come too late for officials already planning the school budget.
“Although representatives of the New Jersey Department of Education have given statements to the press that indicate the amount Teaneck would owe may be less than initially stated, the district has not received written verification of these statements,” said a statement posted on the school district website.
The virtual charter school would offer an online curriculum with a walk-in center in Teaneck, according to the school’s application. Charter schools are publicly funded but independently operated schools. Local districts fund 90 percent of per-pupil costs from where the student lives.
Applications for virtual schools have sparked calls for revisions to the state’s charter school funding laws.