Charter schools affect funding in Sayreville school district


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SAYREVILLE — The effect of charter schools at both the national and local levels was discussed during the Nov. 15 Sayreville Board of Education meeting.

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Board member Kevin Ciak, who is the president-elect of the National School Boards Association, said he was recently in Denver to prepare for the national conference and was able to get some perspective on what is happening on the national level in regards to education.

He explained that President-Elect Donald Trump is in favor of a school voucher program, which could give parents more choice in regards to which school their child attends, including a charter school. Charter schools are independently established.

“We could see a very different national conversation regarding public education and the implantation of [the Every Student Succeeds Act],” he said, referring to the U.S. education law. “We believe if a charter school is going to exist that it should only be with the authorization of the community’s local school board.”

Ciak said the National School Boards Association is preparing a stategy around the changing political landscape, but hopes that if there is new legislation regarding charter schools, it requires them to be authorized by the local school board.

At the local level, Sayreville Board of Education President Michael Macagnone took issue at the meeting with the school district covering the tuition for 6.5 students attending Hatikvah, a K-7 grade school in East Brunswick. He brought up the issue during the authorization of a payment to the school.

Because Hatikvah is a Department of Education-recognized charter school, any municipality with students attending the school must cover each student’s tutition.

“When we’re sending students to a religious charter school, it kind of bothers me,” Macagnone said, “because it brings the question of religion and state into the picture.”

In maintaining his belief that it is a religious school, Macagnone said he did not feel he could send his own children there.

Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe pointed out that even though Hebrew is taught at Hatikvah, there are students in attendance of various faiths.

Both Highland Park and Edison, in the past, have strongly opposed paying tuition for its students who attend Hatikvah, and both districts are represented by the Sayreville Board of Education attorney Jonathan Busch.

Labbe also said the board has been asked by superintendents in Middlesex and Monmouth counties to endorse a resolution expressing their concern regarding a potential new charter school in Old Bridge. He said superintendents in those counties are concerned about the impact that school could have on their respective districts.

The resolution was not yet prepared, he said, but Labbe said the board was asked whether or not it would support such a resolution, which would likely be sent to the state Department of Education. No formal action regarding the issue was taken.

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