Voorhees Township Committee is unanimously against the placement of charter schools in the immediate area.
They all spoke out against the proposed charter school, Regis Academy, at a recent committee meeting.
Voorhees has followed suit with Cherry Hill in appealing the decision to allow another charter school to be located in the area.
Regis Academy would be located in Cherry Hill and receive students from Somerdale, Lawnside, Cherry Hill, and Voorhees. If approved, it will cost Voorhees $727,000 a year.
The $727,000 makes up 89 percent of the school district’s cap space. The budget can only be increased by no more than 2 percent every year.
“On Dec. 13, Sen. Michael Doherty will be coming to the Voorhees Middle School at 7 p.m., not to discuss charter schools, but rather he will be doing a town hall to discuss his ‘Fair School Funding Act’ which, if passed, will have a tremendous positive impact on our school funding and our property taxes,” Committee Member Michael Friedman said. “In fact, Voorhees would stand to receive $18,289,126 more each year for school funding if Sen. Doherty’s plan is passed in the legislature.
“I am not opposed to charter schools in theory because I think they can be very effective and provide an additional source of valuable education in underperforming and underprivileged areas and can also foment competition which is also valuable to increase the value of education in certain areas,” he continued. “However, Voorhees and Cherry Hill are not those areas.”
Friedman said Voorhees schools are high performing and are one reason why people choose to live there.
“At the same time, we are living in extremely challenging economic times with a very tight budget,” he added. “If we are forced to accept such charter schools which quite frankly are not needed or wanted by the residents, our schools will be forced to outlay significant funds for those schools which will have a demonstrably negative impact on an already tight school budget, and which will inevitably lead to reduced services, teachers and programs in our schools.”
Friedman also said the process of bringing in charter schools is flawed.
“The very idea that municipalities in New Jersey cannot currently vote on whether charter schools will be in their town and/or be forced to outlay funds for such schools without the chance to vote on same, is at its core, anti-American” he said. “We may be the only state in the union that has such an antiquated school charter law and which thankfully is currently on the docket to be changed in the state senate.
“Voorhees residents should undoubtedly have the opportunity to vote on whether their hard-earned tax dollars go towards supporting a charter school or not,” Friedman added. “Taxation without representation was an issue that was the source of quite a bit of anger many, many years ago and it is no more acceptable now in modern times.”
Committee Member Harry Platt agrees.
“Over the past few years, Voorhees boasts a Blue Ribbon Award-winning school and the Superintendent our K-8 school district has been named Superintendent of the Year,” he said. “Charter schools also drain revenue from our quality school system.
“Taking any funds away from these proven Voorhees schools and giving them to a non-proven charter school will only be detrimental to our educational goals as a community,” Platt added.
He said he is in favor of a parent being able to choose an alternative style of education for their children. Two of his sisters chose not to send their children to township schools from kindergarten through middle school.
“My sisters chose this kind of education for their kids and paid for it without the expectation of taxpayers compensating for their personal choice,” Platt said.
He said allowing any non-elected entity (State Board of Education, Court, etc.) to take residents’ tax dollars and give it to an experimental venture in a region that is in absolutely no need, “borders on un-American.”
Platt said charter schools are really just private schools in disguise.
Voorhees Mayor Michael Mignogna said the committee has instructed its solicitor to investigate whether the township can intervene in the lawsuit as a supportive party.
“We will partner with the schools and local parent groups in their opposition to charter schools that affect Voorhees,” Mignogna said. “Learn more about the issues and lend your support by visiting the Facebook page of the Voorhees Schools Parental Advocacy Group.”