State Rejects Science and Technology School’s Expansion Plan, But Approves Opening of Two New Charters for Paterson
Thursday, March 14, 2013 • 1:07pm
PATERSON, NJ – There will be more than 1,200 losers when Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology holds its enrollment lottery tonight. That’s the gap between the 1,400 applications that school officials say they have received and the 120 openings available.
“There are over 300 applications for 80 slots available in kindergarten,’’ said Riza Gurcanli, who holds the title of “lead person” at the charter school. “Other grade levels we almost have no rooms available. Even siblings will participate in the lottery process since there are more siblings applying for each grade than available seats.”
Science and Technology had hoped to boost its enrollment by about 50-percent for 2013-14 by creating another 500 seats for new students, part of an expansion plan that would have entailed the opening of a third building. But the New Jersey Department of Education six weeks ago denied the charter’s application for additional enrollment.
“We have determined that Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology has not demonstrated sufficient student achievement to merit an expansion,’’ said Evo Ropoff, in a January 30 letter to the school. “As such, this request is denied. I encourage the school to continue to strive for academic excellence and look forward to reconsidering this request if the school is able to demonstrate significant gains in student achievement.”
“That was shocking for us,’’ said Gurcanli.
At every grade level, Science and Technology’s students score higher on standardized tests than do children who attend Paterson Public Schools, according to statistics compiled by the state. It also has higher high school graduation rates. Some city education advocates attribute the difference in the scores to the fact that charter schools do not have to accept students who speak little English or need special education courses.
Gurcanli said his school’s waiting list is evidence of its success.
Even though the state rejected Science and Technology’s expansion, it did approve applications for the creation of two other charter schools for Paterson. http://thealternativepress.com/articles/two-new-charter-schools-coming-to-paterson One would open in September and the other the year after that. Both of the new applicants are affiliated with larger charter school networks, according to a story by NJ Spotlight.
Funding for the charter schools comes through the budget of the city school. During this current year, that represented a $24 million expense for three schools – Science and Technology, Community Charter School and the John P. Holland Charter School. Next year, with the opening of a fourth charter, the city school district expects that cost to rise by about 25-percent, or an extra $6 million.
Education advocates say the charters not only siphon much-needed money from Paterson Public Schools, but also “cream” the best students, leaving behind children with more challenging and costly educational needs.
“The charter movement left unchecked will leave the district to have two kinds of students,’’ those in special education and those for whom English is not their first language, said Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund, an advocacy group.
City school board members acknowledge that many parents believe charter schools provide their children a better education than those run by the district. “It’s a new trend, it’s a new fad,’’ said Board Member Manuel Martinez, discussing the charters’ popularity. Martinez has been a teacher at a charter school as well as at a regular school district
Board members also say that education programs vary from charter to charter and that parents ought to look into the track records of the schools before they send their students to them.
Some city education advocates say the state did not do a good enough job getting input from Patersonians about the proposals for the two new charters.
“It’s like the flood gates are opening up without the schools being truly vetted,’’ said School Board President Christopher Irving.