Court rules in favor of charter

Court rules in favor of charter

A state appeals court ruled in favor of a Hebrew-language charter school in East Brunswick, rejecting the local school board’s assertion that it lacked the required enrollment.

In a Dec. 21 decision, three judges wrote they found no reason to overrule former education commissioner Bret Schundler’s granting of a four-year initial approval for Hatikvah International Academy Charter School, which opened last school year.

“The record demonstrates that Hatikvah followed the procedures set forth in the act and regulations for approval of a charter school,” wrote the judges.

The East Brunswick Board of Education filed suit against Hatikvah in August 2010, charging the school did not have the required 97 students — representing 90 percent of its projected enrollment — as mandated by the state.

The court’s rejection of that claim was hailed by Hatikvah representatives.

“It’s been quite a long battle,” founder Yair Nezaria told NJJN. “We’ve now had three different education commissioners rule in our favor. The [state] attorney general has ruled in our favor and now we’ve had three different court rulings in our favor. I’m not quite sure how much further we need to go to defend ourselves.”

The legal action was termed “totally without merit” and “frivolous” in a statement released after the ruling by Hatikvah’s board. It called on the East Brunswick Board of Education to “drop its case, which has already wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars without accomplishing anything other than punishing a group of families who chose this school as the best educational option for their children.”

Nezaria said the K-2 school — which is gradually adding grades at its rented space in the Trinity Presbyterian Church on Cranbury Road — has been “an overwhelming success” and is now operating with a long waiting list of East Brunswick students — who receive priority — and one for nonresidents.

School districts around the state have been bristling over the state’s approval of charter schools, because state law requires that 90 percent of the cost of educating each student must be turned over by the sending district to the charter school. Opponents say the costs for programming and expenses such as utilities remain the same at each school, while charters take money away from the majority of students in high-performing districts to fund “boutique” schools serving a minority of students.

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