Testimony in Newark on Charter School Co-location

Below is testimony from Julius Tajiddin, a NYC public school parent, on the issue of co-locating charter schools in Newark public school buildings, a practice that has led to bitterness and division among NYC parents.  An Independent Budget Office report, showing that in NYC,  co-located charter schools receive more public funds per student than district public schools is here.
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I learned last night that Newark New Jersey’s School District is under the NJ Governor’s  Control.  Oh boy!  Anyway I testified last night (May 3, 2011) at the School District’s Advisory Board Public Meeting thinking that one of the board’s main topics was going to be on whether or not the Board would approve charter schools co-locating into public school buildings.

I learned that there had already been several meetings on this issue from the time that I first heard of the controversy on News 1. However, I had been misinformed thinking that May 3rd would still be such a meeting.  Be that as it may, a vote had already taken place. The “Advisory” Board to my delight voted against such policy. However, I quickly learned that night that the Governor “overturned” that decision.  Although, it seems that in light of the Governoral Control information that I got such decision didn’t count anyway.

And so I stayed, recrafted what I would say and let it fly.  The reasons for my decision to continue with speaking is found in my testimony, as well as the reason why I decided to go to Newark last night in the first place instead of the Education Forum hosted by CB 10 at the Harriet Tubman School.  But I was secure that the right minds were in the house to make sure that such forum didn’t turn out to be a charade.

Testimony:

Good Evening Everyone:  My name is Julius Tajiddin.  I am the chair of Frederick Douglass Academy II’s school advisory board, located in Harlem, New York, which is housed in the Wadleigh School Campus building, along with the Wadleigh Secondary School.  I am also co-chair of the campus advisory board.

I thought that one of the board’s topics for tonight’s meeting was to be on whether [or not] charter schools should  be housed in public school buildings in Newark.

Now before I go further, I’d like to inform everyone that New York City is in a crisis dealing with the co-location of charter schools in public school buildings (some applause) and therefore I felt that it was important for me to be here, because many times New Jersey sets the tone on many policies nationwide.

My position on this issue, while it may seem passe’, is that there must be a vetted out process that will bring the end result of fairness in public education, otherwise, charter schools will be used as a gentrification tool.  [Shouts of Affirmation and Applause]  And that may be the plan.  [Stronger shouts of affirmation and loud applause.]

Now I just learned that your decision to not allow charter schools to come into school buildings was overturned by the [Commissioner of Education]. [?]  However, in preparing for this visit I did some research and found a case that was heard before the New Jersey Appellate Division.  That case was J.D. v Lucille Davy, and it was decided May 3, 2010.

I learned actually that your charter school law predates ours by 3 years.  In fact, the two mirror each other [before all the changes, but in many ways it still does]. So it is likely that New York got its charter school law from Jersey.

The New Jersey State Law states that charter schools may co-locate in public school buildings.  But it is not absolute.  [Cheers, Shouts and Applause]   I would advise this board to do further research on this law and case.  Quickly, charter schools don’t receive facility funding.  But when you put a charter school – getting 90% of its funding from the
public, and this is minus facility funding – into a public school building, such school would be getting 120-130% public funding. [Sounds of dismay]

On the other hand, the public school 100% funding includes the apportionment of facilities. [Sounds of disbelief and realization] [Therefore] if you give public school space to charter schools you are taking resources from those who choose public education; [Thunderous applause] That includes many special needs children, which charter schools can weasel out of serving. [Thunderous applause]

I will review this decision further, but I do believe that such decision does not preclude this board from coming up with a plan that will not allow the misapportionment of public money for public education. [Applause]

In fact the citizens of this great city can bring an action in a court of law to guarantee that. [Thunderous applause and cheers]

One of the Board Members: “Mr. Tajiddin, we would appreciate if you could leave us any documents and papers you have on this.”   me – “Yes, certainly.  I will.”

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What that speech did was inspire many people to take some action. They learned things that they were unaware of.  I did as well.  I gave the board the copy of the case I used and told them I would give them a copy of my testimony. I also exchanged contact information with many people.  And so our coalition expands.

Julius Tajiddin

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