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Proposed Virtual Charter School Could Cost Teaneck School District $15M

Massive layoffs, program cuts possible.

The Township’s public school district has been warned to budget more than $15 million for a proposed Teaneck-based virtual charter school in a scenario that could lead to sweeping cuts to programs and staff, District Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said Wednesday.

In a letter to the district, the state said Teaneck should allocate more than $15 million for “planning purposes” in its 2012-13 budget for the Garden State Virtual Charter School, Pinsak said. The state Education Department will announce in January if the charter is approved to open.

The $15.4 million warning represents 20 percent of the Teaneck public school budget, Pinsak said.

“$15 million is devastating,” Pinsak said. “I’m shocked.”

The charter’s proposed cost to Teaneck would force the district to cut at least 60 to 80 positions at all levels, Pinsak said.  Other possible impacts would be increased class sizes, the end of school trips and activities, cuts to school busing, consolidating private school bus stops and outsourcing custodians. 

On top of the cuts, Pinsak said the Board of Education might still have to ask voters approve a tax increase. 

“It’s very concerning to me,” Pinsak said. "We'll be looking at the legal aspects of it." 

State Education Department spokesman Justin Barra said the district wasn't required to budget the total amount. 

"There's not an absolute obligation that they budget this amount," Barra said. "This is a tool for them."

The state's estimate is based on potential enrollment from Teaneck, he said. 

"We do our best to make a projection," Barra said.  

, which plans to offer an online curriculum, has proposed to serve 1,000 K-12 students statewide in its first year. The number of students from Teaneck is not yet known and would impact the final costs locally. State officials calculated the sum by attributing the maximum possible enrollment to Teaneck students. 

Still, Pinsak said the district cannot ignore the state’s recommendation in its budget process.

Officials set aside money for charter schools first, she said. 

Charter school founder Jason Flynn, of Teaneck, said the school did not anticipate the majority of its students would be from Teaneck. The Township was listed as the charter school's home district, but students statewide can attend if the school is approved. Each of the student's home districts would be required to pay per enrollee. 

"This is a statewide virtual charter school," Flynn said. "The funding of an individual follows the backpack."

The charter school would cater to unique groups of students, including those with physical disabilities and those in urban areas who are not selected for existing charter schools.  

"It has to be the right kind of kid," he said. 

The initial budget projection was high because the law required estimates to be made using Teaneck's cost per pupil, Flynn said. The online school would have significantly less cost per pupil and not have added expenses of a large school building. The school would open a drop-in center in Teaneck, with most instruction done via Web conferencing. 

Flynn said he hoped to work with Teaneck school officials, and meet with State Senator Loretta Weinberg and state education officials. 


Jim Dunleavy November 15, 2011 at 10:32 PM
I am most interested in the answers to the questions that Ostroth posed. As most know, having a not for profit does not mean there is no profit, it is how it has to be used that determines that status. Having taught courses at the doctoral level through distance learning systems, while it is efficient and cost effective, I at times found it far inferior to face to face involvement. I would also raise concerns about a total distance learning experience especially with those that are physically or emotionally/mentally challenged. Socialization is imperative for these students to grow as individuals and work within the society as a whole. I hope that the Legislature moves on the bill that will give the local community the last say. the town will never gain back financially what they lose when the state requires the per head $ to be transferred to the school. Certainly the balance between that number and the more cost efficient distance learning proposal could be used for improvements in our public schools. To say the citizens of the town do not pay is simply not accurate as tax dollars are paying for these charter schools. something I am philosophically opposed to. Look forward to hearing more.
LaVerne November 16, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Hook line and sink our kids. Yes it sounds fishy because of all these back door dealings.
Barbara Ostroth November 17, 2011 at 04:58 AM
That is an unfair statement to make about Teaneck's school administrators. The fact is that so far, Teaneck has been told to budget the entire bill for the first year ($15K) and will only get paid back funds the following fall after the virtual charter school reports what towns their students live in -- well AFTER the annual school budget must be finalized under a 2% cap and voted on in April. The process of funding charter schools is flawed, has been flawed since 1995, and needs to be amended by the state legislature.
Barbara Ostroth November 17, 2011 at 05:05 AM
Before making such a life-changing decision, I urge you to please go tour Bryant School and any of the other schools, speak to teachers and public school parents, and resist listening to rumor and innuendo. The public schools offer a very good education, and many are very satisfied with the quality of instruction their kids are getting. The problem with charter schools is that the current laws are unfair in the way they are governed, evaluated and funded. Also keep in mind there are charter schools in all types oif communities in NJ, including some other very good school districts like Highland Park, Princeton, etc. If you choose to send your child to TCCS, that's your right to do so. Just make sure you are basing your decision on the right criteria. As the mother of four who were educated in our schools from 1987-2006, each of them were different learners with many positive experiences and a few negative ones -- and they all did well in college!
Barbara Ostroth November 17, 2011 at 05:07 AM
Their application anticipates a $3M surplus at the end of the first year...out of our tax dollars. Need I say more? It seems this might be a planned for-profit charter school.

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