2012-03-15 / Front Page

Council expresses support for state charter school bill

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — Local residents and Township Council members are expressing support for a state Assembly bill that would require public approval of new charter schools.

“I think this is a step in the right direction in having local government take back what should be ours,” said Councilwoman Camille Ferraro.

During its Feb. 27 meeting, the council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to support the enactment of New Jersey Assembly Bill 1877, which would introduce voter input into the charter school process through a ballot measure during school elections.

“I’m usually all for any legislation that puts control of our residents’ tax dollars into their hands,” said council President Michael Hughes. “And that’s exactly what this bill does.”

Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Peter J. Barnes III and John Wisniewski (all D-Middlesex) sponsored the bill along with Assembly members Albert Coutinho, Mila Jasey, Ralph Caputo and Reed Gusciora, and it was approved Feb. 2 by an Assembly panel.

Before the vote on the resolution, several residents came before the council to thank them for their support of the bill.

“The system in New Jersey is broken, and it needs to be fixed,” said Deborah Cornavaca, who serves as vice president on the East Brunswick Public Library Board of Trustees. Cornavaca is involved with Save Our Schools New Jersey, a nonpartisan volunteer organization that supports the bill and counts some parents of charter school students among its members. She wanted people to know it is not anti-charter school legislation.

“It’s really a systemic problem that we’re working on,” she said. “It’s not an attack on charter schools.”

Currently, charter schools begin operation after receiving the approval of the state commissioner of education. In the local area, existing charter schools include the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School in East Brunswick; the Greater Brunswick Charter School in New Brunswick; the Academy for Urban Leadership Charter High School in Perth Amboy; the Central Jersey College Prep Charter School in Somerset; and the Queen CityAcademy Charter School in Plainfield.

Statements from council members focused on the importance of bringing the decision making process down to the local level.

“When 66 percent of the tax bill in East Brunswick goes to fund education, I think they [residents] do deserve a say in how that money gets spent,” said Hughes, a former member of the East Brunswick Township Board of Education.

The bill is accompanied by several related proposals, including a bill that would implement measures regarding the oversight and accountability of charter schools and another that would establish grounds by which the commissioner may revoke a school’s charter. The package is awaiting consideration by the full Assembly.

Contact Adam Joseph Drici at adrici@gmnews.com.

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