Shalom Academy Money Could Go To Teaneck Classrooms
School officials seek meeting with state education chief.
School media center upgrades, new social studies textbooks and curriculum initiatives are some of the district projects that could benefit from the $1.4 million once allocated to cover tuition for students enrolled at the proposed Shalom Academy Charter School.
Still, Teaneck Board of Education President Ardie Walser cautioned the funds should not be viewed as extra money, as the district already made cuts to meet Shalom Academy’s requirements.
“These are just a few ways in which we can use these funds,” Walser said of the possible initiatives. “Please note that the $1.4 million are not additional funds but rather funds that were pulled from programs that were part of the original 2012 - 2013 Teaneck school budget.”
State officials denied a final approval Shalom Academy needed to open in the fall. Teaneck and Englewood were required to allocate tuition money for local students enrolled at the K-5 Hebrew immersion school.
Budgeting around Shalom was complicated when the district was told late in the process it needed to allocate funds for the charter school, Walser said. In February, after a school budget had been ratified, the district learned of the $1.4 million price tag it faced for Shalom Academy.
“The district then had to work this major deficit to the school budget into the funding equation,” Walser said in an email. “This reduction in funds has impacted negatively a number of the programs that were planned for the 2012 - 2013 academic year.”
Walser called the vetting for charter schools “very problematic” and said the district had offered input on Shalom Academy’s applications.
“The Teaneck school district had reviewed at least two proposals put forth by the founders of the Shalom Academy, at significant cost to the district in time and human capital,” Walser said. “Each time the district was overruled by the [Department of Education] in spite of the fact that the district had found the curriculum to be lacking in rigor and innovation.”
District officials are seeking to arrange a meeting with Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, Walser said. No meeting date has been scheduled.
“The concept of charter schools was a grand idea that has been terribly misused,” he said. “It is my hope that we find a better way to work this mode of education into our educational system without destroying those things that currently work for a large number of our children and families.”
In all, state education officials approved nine new charter schools to open this fall and granted 13 others a year to prepare. Ten schools, including Shalom Academy, were rejected.
The Department of Education noted a new performance measure it will use to evaluate charter schools.
“Charter schools are granted autonomy in exchange for accountability, and we at the state level will continue to hold all charter schools accountable for results to ensure that they offer all students a high-quality education and an equality of opportunity,” Cerf said in a statement.
Shalom Academy’s founder has not responded to requests for comment. The school can re-apply for a charter by April 2013 or fight the state’s denial in court. A school representative has said all of Shalom Academy’s 160 seats were filled and some grades had waiting lists.