Hundreds of students, parents and teachers from the Teaneck, N.J. Public school system rallied in the high school gymnasium Wednesday against a virtual charter school proposed for their town.
As the school board was first told by the state, the diversion of taxpayer dollars to the virtual charter could mean the loss of as much as $15.4 million to the public schools.
"Ultimately public schools will be losing 40 to 50 per cent of their budgets after a couple of years," said Shelley Worrell, co-president of the P.T.O. Council.
The proposed budget for the Garden State Virtual Charter School calls for a small drop-in center to be located in Teaneck, but it would otherwise focus on home school students across the state.
It also projects a $4.7 million balance but does not specify what the money would be used for, or if it would be split as profit among the four listed founders, which include a lawyer, a subsitute teacher and a curriculum director for the New York City Department of Education.
None of the founders of the school could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The record for charters -- both virtual and brick-and-mortar -- is mixed, with some showing better test scores than public schools, and some testing worse.
In the latter case, virtual school representatives have argued that they often enroll students who don't fit in a school setting, and were falling behind their peers.
Teaneck Superintendent Barbara Pinsak acknowledged some charters report better test scores, but she said virtual schools simply cannot replicate the school experience that a district like Teaneck can.
"I think we have a great school district," Pinsak said.
The Christie administration just recently approved four more charters in the state, and said it will decide as early as next month on what would be the first virtual school in the state.
But facing the loss of potentially tens of millions of dollars that would be diverted to new charters, parents in many communities, like in Highland Park, have been pressing legislators to allow for a local vote by residents to decide if charters should be allowed in their towns.
Teaneck High teacher Robert Roseen, who also lives in town, said, "The prospect of larger class sizes and less staff available to support and help our kids terrifies me."
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