Hatikvah International Academy Charter School’s most recent expansion request was denied on Feb. 29, 2016, by the NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe. The expansion by the East Brunswick-based charter school would have increased the capacity of the school from 300 to 450 seats. An approval could have diverted scarce public school resources to Hatikvah, which has failed to fill the 300 seats it currently is allowed to fill. The Highland Park School District, which has been instructed by the state to set aside $388,698 for FY17 to cover projected charter school expenses, opposed the Hatikvah expansion request.
The Department of Education(DOE) announced approval of 16 charter expansions and three new schools. But the East Brunswick Hatikvah was not among the expansion approvals.
School Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor and School Board President Darcie Cimarusti who have led the charge against Hatikvah expansion said in a letter to the community that they “thank each and every community member who supported the district in our effort to oppose the expansion. We also want to thank the other districts that adopted resolutions, and took steps to inform their communities of the potential impact of the proposed expansion.”
The Highland Park School District, however, remains focused on the district’s appeal of previous NJ Department of Education approval of Hatikvah’s expansion request to add grades 6-8. Under the State Charter School Statute, a charter school is allowed to file a request for expansion every year. “We will continue to keep the community informed of the district’s progress in our continued efforts to protect the educational options available to the over 1,600 students whose parents choose to attend our public schools,” according to the statement. “There is still a lot of work to be done, and we thank you for your support of the Highland Park Public School District, and for the opportunity to serve your children.”
In an interview last week, Dr. Taylor expressed his frustration with the governor’s proposed budget that called for a “very negligible increase” in the district’s funding. The one percent increase that fails to come close to making up for the greatly increased costs that the district is facing – with the bulk of the costs coming from unfunded mandates, including covering projected charter school expenses, Dr. Taylor said.