Education in the Media
Most N.J. Charter School Facilities Outdated, Analysis FindsJanuary 30, 2013
Almost three-quarters of New Jersey's charter schools that participated in a recent survey were built before 1970, and a third are housed in buildings not originally built as schools, according to an analysis released today.
The study by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and two other charter school groups, found a majority of the state's charter schools are "outdated," most don't have their own athletic fields or access to one that's nearby and many students do not attend class in specialized instructional spaces such as science labs, art or music rooms.
Yet, the analysis said, charter schools spend $1,418 per student on facilities.
"For the average charter school facility in New Jersey, with an average enrollment of 274 students, this translates into $388,532 — enough to hire more than eight additional teachers," said the analysis released by the New Jersey Charter School Association, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
In addition, the analysis said, about a third of surveyed charters reported there is an underutilized public school building nearby. Only 11 percent of surveyed charter schools are in "regular" district buildings, however, the analysis found.
Charter schools are publicly-funded, privately-run, schools.
The analysis was based on data collected from 72 percent of New Jersey's roughly 80 charter schools, although participating schools had smaller average enrollments than most, according to the report. The results "may not necessarily be true for New Jersey's larger charter schools that chose not to participate," the findings said.
David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, a Newark-based school advocacy group, noted that many traditional urban public schools are older and in worse condition, and have to wait for the state Schools Development Authority to take any action on facilities.
Sciarra also said there is "no way to know if charters are shortchanged on funding" since they are not required to fully disclose private funding, including in-kind donations and support. Charter schools also receive state funding equal to about 90 percent of the funding in their host district.
The analysis recommended that New Jersey consider ways to provide better facilities for charter schools, such as a per-pupil facilities allowance, state grant or loan programs for charter school facilities, equal access to facility funding programs available to traditional public schools and equal access to bonding authority.