In an effort to bring an end to what it believes is “a groundless lawsuit” by the East Brunswick Board of Education, a Hebrew-language charter school has filed a request to force the board to make public the costs of its legal fight.
The request by the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School asks the board to turn over all financial documents surrounding legal action from March 1, 2009.
“We believe that our fellow citizens should be aware of exactly how much this baseless case, which the town is actually subsidizing both sides of, is costing them,” Hatikvah board member Pam Mullin said in a statement given to NJJN. “East Brunswick’s taxpayers have a right to know how their public funds are being used, or in this case, misused.”
Mullin claims that the board has “wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars” in challenging Hatikvah, the state’s first Hebrew-language charter school, on enrollment issues.
In a series of legal salvoes, the board claimed the kindergarten-third grade school did not meet the state-mandated requirements for enrollment when it opened last year.
On Dec. 21, a three-judge state appeals court ruled there was no reason “to second guess the final decision” of former education commissioner Bret Schundler’s granting of a four-year initial approval for the school to open.
Since the appellate ruling, the East Brunswick board has decided to continue its fight before the state Supreme Court.
Thomas O. Johnston, attorney for Hatikvah, called the board’s claims “meritless.”
“The East Brunswick board has sought to capitalize on its officials’ misconduct when it argued to the commissioner that Hatikvah had not met its enrollment mandates,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Robin McMahon, an attorney representing the board.
“Hatikvah is now in its second successful year in operation and has a waiting list of parents who desire to enroll their children in Hatikvah,” he continued. “Rather than collaborate with Hatikvah officials to advance the best educational interests of East Brunswick children, your client persists in its campaign, however meritless, to close Hatikvah.”
Calls for comment to McMahon and other district representatives were not returned.
Recent charter schools like Hatikvah have faced a backlash from school boards and community activists who object that 90 percent of the costs of educating each child must be turned over by the sending district to the charter school. School districts have argued that establishing charters in high-performing suburban districts hurts the vast majority of remaining students.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described Hatikvah as a kindergarten-second grade school. It was founded as a K-2 school but has since added a third grade. The article has been corrected to reflect this.