PRINCETON: Charter school expansion will not help public schools

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Wendy Vasquez, Princeton
Dear Editor,
The Princeton Charter School expansion is not the right decision for our Community .
The PCS trustees’ proposal seeks 76 more students, 60 of whom will be in grades K-2, at a cost of $1.16 million dollars that will be taken out of our existing school budget each year.
The trustees of Princeton Charter School claim that by taking 60 children in grades K-2, from Princeton’s 4 Elementary schools, plus taking $1.16 million dollars each year from the current Princeton Public Schools budget, the expansion will help the Princeton Public Schools with their enrollment issues. It will not.
First, enrollment at Princeton High School has been steadily rising for years and is already at or above capacity. None of the new 76 Princeton Charter School “seats” will help PHS.
Second, in the past two years, John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) enrollment has ballooned. The district must have the funds in its upcoming budget season to hire more staff, in order to maintain/readjust class sizes and maintain programs there. As explained above, the bulk of the Princeton Charter School expansions proposal would call for taking 60 children currently in grades K-2, from the 4 Princeton elementary schools . That does nothing to lessen JWMS’s enrollment.
Third, the PCS proposal calls for an additional few kids per grade, in grades 4-8. This will take out only a handful of students from JWMS, spread over the three grades there. This will not affect enrollment, nor will it lessen the need for the district to hire more staff there. If charter school expansion happens, JWMS will still have almost the same number of kids, therefore will still need the same resources and teachers. Fixed costs remain the same! and as a result, we will not have the money to staff those needed new sections. Once again, the PCS expansion does not help JWMS. As a matter of fact it further weakens JWMS now and in the future.
Lastly, the majority of children PCS would take would come from three grades across the 4 elementary schools, which aren’t experiencing a crowding issue. Even if they were, the expansion as proposed would not meaningfully help.
So, if the PCS expansion doesn’t help PHS, doesn’t help JWMS, isn’t needed in the 4 elementary schools, and only weakens the excellent Princeton Public Schools as a whole, why is it being forced on our community?
Wendy Vasquez
Princeton