By Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr.
Many will agree that charter schools in the right place and at the right cost are a viable option for educating our children. But just as public schools are required to get voter approval for their annual spending, charter schools should have to prove their worth to the public before they open their doors and start spending taxpayer money.
After all, charter schools are funded by taxpayer dollars, and their mission should be supported by the local community. Ninety percent of the cost of charter school students comes from the local Board of Education budget.
That’s why I have sponsored legislation (A-3852) that would require charter schools to be approved by the voters of the district at the annual school election before they are authorized to operate.
This is an opportunity for charter schools to prove their case, especially so-called “boutique” charter schools that are proposed not only in Middlesex County, but in communities across our state. Should we be opening them in strongly performing school districts and should taxpayer money be used to support them? That’s a question for the voters, whose money is being spent, to decide.
East Brunswick recently appealed approval for a Hebrew-based charter school in its district, arguing it did not enroll enough East Brunswick students. The dispute will be decided by a state official tucked into some office somewhere, rather than the people who will pay for the bulk of it. That’s not how democracy should work.
Let the taxpayers who are footing the bill decide.
Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., represents the 18th Legislative District in Middlesex County in the New Jersey General Assembly. A Democrat, he serves as the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee.
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