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Why Mandarin (and other) charters are hard to get through

April 25, 2011

Charter Schools in Suburbia: More Argument Than Agreement

So-called boutique charter schools are raising concerns about costs and specialized curriculums in some suburban enclaves
By John Mooney, April 25 in Education |2 Comments

This report is part of a joint project between NJ Spotlight.com and the Patch.com network of community news sites to provide both a statewide and a local look at the politics of charter schools in many New Jersey communities, and the tensions that sometimes arise regarding their funding in an age of budget cutbacks.

Suburban charter schools almost sound like a contradiction in terms. After all, charters typically conjure up the image of families seeking alternatives to gritty urban schools.

Charters Across New Jersey
East Brunswick: Questioning Charter School’s Right to Exist

Morristown: Unity Charter May Be a Jewel, But It’s One With Some Costs

Gloucester: A Home Schooler Takes on the School Board

Hoboken: Can the Public Schools Compete, by Getting Better?

Livingston: How Many Mandarin Schools Is too Many?

Princeton: Everyone’s Mad About Mandarin

Red Bank: Charter Schools Face Budget Woes Too

South Brunswick: A Debate or a Shouting Match?

Teaneck: Innovation or Duplication?

But while some suburban charters have been in existence from the start in places like Princeton and Morristown, the small, independent schools are becoming a growing presence — and a growing source of tension as well.

A combination of factors are at work, not the least of which is Gov. Chris Christie’s push to expand charters statewide. Much of the attention has been on so-called boutique schools, with narrow focuses like Hebrew or Mandarin. That specialization is raising concerns in host communities as to why they have to support special-interest institutions.

But on the eve of this week’s budget votes, ongoing recession fears and tight public resources that have left everyone struggling for money underlie the tension. School districts in suburban and urban areas generally pay charters 90 percent of the district’s per-pupil costs.

Not every district is grumbling, by any means, but the complaints in districts like Princeton, East Brunswick and South Brunswick are getting louder.

NJ Spotlight and Patch.com have teamed up to examine the issues that have surfaced over the growing charter school movement in New Jersey, especially in suburban districts.

Read more here.

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