Newjerseynewsroom.com features commentary from Sean Scarborough
Many would be surprised to know the paramount challenge in building a successful charter school in New Jersey has nothing to do with the curriculum, student and faculty recruitment or lingering distrust from the local public schools.
The problem has been the financing and construction of a long-term facility that can accommodate a 21st century curriculum. Land costs in New Jersey are astronomical, while construction prices with a reputable builder are often daunting for even the most aggressive charter school fundraiser.
New Jersey needs to create a funding mechanism that levels the playing field between traditional public schools and charter schools, which have been coping with an inherent disadvantage since they first opened in the state in 1997.
If a local Board of Education is interested in building or expanding a school, the process is simple. There is a special election for voters to approve the issuing of a tax-exempt bond. Taxpayers then pay back the bond over a number of years. The funds are incorporated in the overall property tax bill; most taxpayers don’t even know or recall what the long-term debt is for.
Charter schools, now serving 26,000 students in New Jersey, are not allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds. There are no provisions in state law for charter schools to get funding for school construction. Most operators have no choice but to pull critical dollars from the operating budget to fund facility costs, hampering the efforts to fulfill the unique purpose of the charter school.
- Tags: Scarborough Properties