Public school officials say Hoboken charters sap funding from lower income and minority students

HoLa Charter School in Hoboken offers something most New Jersey schools do not - dual language learning. (5/15/14)

HOBOKEN - A battle over charter schools in Hoboken has emerged as the city's demographics evolve, and residents say some public schools aren't keeping up.

HoLa Charter School in Hoboken offers something most New Jersey schools do not - dual language learning.  The emersion school teaches in both English and spanish.    

"The education we provide here is something you can't get anywhere else," says HoLa Board of Education President Barbara Martinez.

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In 1997, charter school legislation was set up to give parents in New Jersey that choice, according to Martinez. In recent years, that choice has kept some families from leaving Hoboken for the suburbs. But public school administrators say charters come at a cost to every other child in town. 

Gary Enrico, of the Hoboken Education Association, says charter schools are eating away at the public school budget. "They say they're part of public school system but they are not," he says. "They want to have [their]  own little school funded by public money."

Enrico says more than $8 million of their $62 million budget funds the three charter schools in town. He says charter schools are creating a segregated school system. He adds that public schools are teaching mostly minority and low-income students and charters are filled with more affluent white children.   

Martinez dispels that theory, saying there is no segregation. Students are chosen through a state-mandated lottery and all families are encouraged to apply.  

As for funding, Martinez says the money follows the children, which is appropriate since the school is taking on their education. "HoLa serves 10 percent of the Hoboken School District and we only spend 4.6 percent of the overall dollars," she says.

Both sides are in a battle over expanding HoLa. The school currently has state approval to expand into the eighth grade. Hoboken school officials have  appealed that decision, saying more charter school classes will only hurt the kids left in public school.  

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