At the November 12th Hoboken Public School Board meeting, parents of children enrolled in the HoLa Charter School spoke in favor of expanding their school district by two new grade levels. Why were parents from HoLa speaking at the Hoboken Public School district meeting? Because the Hoboken public school district superintendent, Dr. Mark Toback, is submitting an impact statement on HoLa's expansion request - a request that is decided by the state. And why would the superintendent of Hoboken's public school district, an entirely separate school district from HoLa's school district, care to express an opinion on this matter? Because the New Jersey state school funding formula pits public schools against charter schools.
In New Jersey, a gain for a district charter school is a loss for a district public school. Hoboken has what is essentially four entirely separate school districts: the public school district, and three charter schools including HoLa. Each school district funds its own separate facilities, teaching staff, and administrative staff, and Hoboken taxpayers provide most of the funding.
Clearly, HoLa's budget will increase if their expansion request is granted by the state. But, perversely, state funding rules require that HoLa's increased budget be folded into the combined budgets of all four school districts. Even more perversely, the state mandates that the Hoboken Public School Board has sole authority for approving the budget. This means the Hoboken Public School Board is ultimately responsible for imposing the taxes that Hoboken residents pay towards all four school districts, but the board only has control over their own district’s budget.
Dr. Toback has explained that there are only two possible budgetary outcomes if HoLa is granted their request: (1) the overall budget for the four district schools will increase and Hoboken taxpayers will have to absorb the increase, or (2) the Hoboken Public School Board will have to cut programs for students in their own district to lower the overall budget and limit tax increases. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place! What would you do as the Public School Board Superintendent, as a member of the Public School Board, or as a public school parent?
As public school parents we can't support cuts to our school programs. Cuts would only serve to disrupt the steady improvements being made in the public schools. And who wants tax increases? We feel as passionately about the Hoboken public schools as HoLa parents feel about their school. Just as HoLa parents support their school district, we support our school district, our school board and our superintendent. It's important to recognize that this issue isn't about school choice, or the relative merits of charter schools and public schools. The issue is about funding one school district at the expense of another.