The Hatikvah International Academy charter school has received $278,000 owed it by the East Brunswick Board of Education even as the district continues to fight the charter granted by the state.
The state's first Hebrew-language charter school opened for grades K-2 Sept. 7; a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sept. 21 at its temporary facility on the grounds of Trinity Presbyterian Church.
But even as leaders of Hatikvah celebrated the opening, they continue to fight efforts by the board of education to withdraw its charter and limit the board's payments per pupil.
At the heart of the litigation is the board of ed's claim that Hatikvah has insufficient enrollment under the terms of the state charter.
Hatikvah officials deny this.
In the latest development, the board turned over the $278,000 on Sept. 30, said Hatikvah leaders. Two days earlier, state education commissioner Rochelle Hendricks wrote that she would direct the state treasurer to withhold all school state aid from East Brunswick if it did not turn over the funds by that date.
Tom Johnston, the Morristown attorney representing Hatikvah, said the board capitulated following two recent appellate court decisions against it.
The board of education has claimed the school did not have the required 97 students or 90 percent of its projected enrollment ahead of its opening. The board contended it was only responsible for funding 66 students at the school.
However, Johnston said on Oct. 4 that the school had about 100 students, the overwhelming majority of whom were East Brunswick residents.
He said state officials had investigated the enrollment dispute and were satisfied that Hatikvah met state requirements.
East Brunswick has been defeated and they know they don't have a legal leg to stand on, said Johnston. Yet they choose to play fast and loose with the laws.
Johnston called the continued legal action frivolous and a waste of taxpayer money.
In a partial victory for the board of education, however, a Middlesex County Superior Court judge ruled Sept. 15 allowing the board's challenge to the charter to go forward.
The board's attorney, Matthew Giacobbe of Lyndhurst, did not expect the suit to be resolved for several months.
We will be guided by the ruling of the appellate division and will do what the courts tell us to do, said Giacobbe. But we still plan on pursuing our appeal, which is that former commissioner [Bret] Schundler was wrong to issue a charter.