Four Jersey City-based charter schools filed a petition Tuesday requesting that Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf issue a ruling declaring, among other things, that the city’s charter schools are not being properly funded, as required by the New Jersey Constitution and state statutes.
Charter schools are supposed to receive 90 percent of the per-student cost allocated to students in regular public schools. But charter schools in Jersey City sometimes receive as little as 50 percent of the per student costs allocated to other public school students.
The 29-page petition states, “The Jersey City Board of Education is required to pass along to Jersey City charter schools 90 percent per pupil enrolled in the charter school of the Adjustment Aid received by Jersey City district schools.”
Attorneys for the four petitioners point to last year’s school funding formulas as evidence that the charters are being short changed.
A spokesman working for attorneys for the plaintiffs said on Wednesday that it is the responsibility of the Jersey City public school district to pass along funding to the charter schools.
Calls and e-mails to the Jersey City Board of Education were not returned by press time.
Charter schools are founded independently of the public school system – often by educators and parents – but are part of the local public school system. They must follow most state education rules. A state law was passed in the 1990s that allowed their creation.
While they get most of their funding through the local school board, they often must fundraise for the rest.
The petition alleges that the lack of adequate funding is in large part a result of a misinterpretation of statutory language with regard to state Adjustment Aid paid to Jersey City. The petitioners argue that the charters are entitled to receive funding equal to the “base per pupil amount” set by the commissioner and the legislature.
“The current funding formula, as applied to Jersey City’s charter schools, is flawed,” said Mark A. Berman, one of the lawyers representing the four charter schools. “The filing of this petition is significant because it’s the first time Jersey City charter schools have joined together to challenge the inadequacies in the schools funding formula. We expect a ruling from the commissioner that corrects this misinterpretation and remedies this funding inadequacy going forward.”
In January, parents of charter school students complained about the funding formula to the Jersey City Council. The council passed a resolution requesting that Gov. Christopher Christie ensure that Jersey City charter schools get the full funding they deserve under state law.