This week, the state Department of Education rejected 22 charter school applications. The topic of charter schools has sparked controversy throughout New Jersey with critics saying the schools take money away from the traditional public learning institutions. Residents who opposed a virtual charter school in Teaneck protested there last week. CEO of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association Carlos Perez sat down with NJToday’s Mike Schneider to discuss the topic of charter schools.
Perez said charter schools offer innovative learning experiences for students at no cost to those enrolled. While some have called for voter approval of charter schools, Perez said that would put up a barrier to innovation. He said 10,000 students are currently on waiting lists for charter schools in New Jersey, showing there is a great demand. In response to critics of the funding system, Perez said the money belongs to the student in the per pupil system, adding that on average, charter schools receive 70 percent of the funding allocated per child with the other 30 percent remaining with the district.
Perez explained that charter schools have had success in the past 15 years that they’ve been in New Jersey, especially in closing the achievement gap in urban areas. But there is still more work to be done, he adds. Many charter schools, he says, are led by out-of-the-box thinkers and encourage educator input in the decision making process. Perez said he believes much of the criticism of charter schools is more about the system surrounding the learning institutions and not of the charter schools themselves. He said as long as the schools “keep producing for kids,” much of the criticism will diminish.