Monday, February 1, 2016

Red Bank Boro: Where Charterization, Population Growth, and Underaiding Create a Budgetary Crisis

One of New Jersey's most budgetarily embattled districts is Red Bank Boro.

Red Bank Boro, known for having one of the coolest downtowns in New Jersey, also has one of the poorest, most disadvantaged student populations in New Jersey.

First Red Bank Boro has the highest percentage of LEP-qualified students in New Jersey.

Second, Red Bank Boro has the 11th highest percentage of students who are Free & Reduced Lunch eligible.

Red Bank Boro has an above-average tax base ($18 million in Local Fair Share for 1,496 students, or over $13,000 a student), so it should not be an Abbott, but it has some of the challenging demographics in New Jersey and its students are poorer than the students in most of the Abbott districts.

However, despite its good tax base and healthy $15 million tax levy, Red Bank Boro has seen exceptional student population growth in the last few years, mostly among the Latino population.

Source: User Friendly Budgets

Red Bank has increased taxes tremendously due to this population increase, increasing the levy 33% from $11,604,290.00 in 2009-10 to $15,497,094 in 2015-16.  The tax levy increase between 2013-14 and 2014-15 was 10%, a one year increase that is higher than what some other districts have increased their taxes over the entire five year period.  However, Red Bank's solid tax base cannot keep up with tax increases necessary to sustain education programs.  Since state aid has been flat in the last few years, Red Bank Boro's school spending has fallen.

Source: User Friendly Budgets (Other Sources Give Slightly Different Amounts for Per Pupil Spending)

The population growth and the population's disadvantage means that Red Bank is one of New Jersey's most underaided districts.


The Red Bank Charter School's Proposed Expansion

Red Bank also has a charter school known as the "Red Bank Charter School."

The Red Bank Charter School draws children solely from Red Bank and has a socioeconomically disproportionate enrollment from the Red Bank district schools.  Whereas the Red Bank Boro schools are less than 10% white, the Red Bank Charter School is over 50% white.   Jersey Jazzman has documented the disproportionalities in greater detail.

Source: Taxpayer Guide to Education Spending.

Over the last few years payments to the Red Bank Charter School have slightly fallen, dropping from $1.8 million in 2009-10 to $1.7 million in 2015-16.

HOWEVER, now the Red Bank Charter School is proposing to double its enrollment from about 200 students to about 400 over three years.

This would mean a proportional doubling of charter school transfers and a presumed loss to the Red Bank Boro Schools of another $1.7 million, at least.

The Red Bank Charter School expansion application contains irrelevant claims that the expansion application should be approved because the RBCS outperforms the Red Bank Boro schools, such as the Red Bank Boro schools are at the 19th percentile in statewide performance whereas the charter school is at the 73rd percentile and yet doesn't acknowledge the socioeconomic disproportionalities that make it possible.

Red Bank Boro's greater financial problem is its lack of state aid, but the approval of the Red Bank Charter School expansion would also hurt enormously.

If the expansion is approved the Red Bank Boro Schools would have 200 fewer kids to educate (probably fewer, since some RBCS kids would be formerly in private school), but the savings would not equal the increased transfers to the charter school.

Fortunately State Senator Jennifer Beck has come out against the Red Bank Charter School expansion unless Red Bank gets its full state funding, says "[expansion] would devastate an already significantly under-funded school district and clearly place a huge new tax burden on approximately 12,000 residents of this 1.6 square mile Borough."

Beck continues and differentiates Red Bank from other districts where charters might be considered:

Recall that unlike many other school districts with charter schools, we are not a former Abbott, only accept Red Bank students [meaning it is not an Interdistrict Choice district] and are a small Borough where 16% of our property is tax exempt.
As a resident of Red Bank and an advocate for all of our children, I am requesting that you either provide full funding to the Red Bank School District or reject the application.  This issue is NOT about public schools versus charter schools, this is purely about providing appropriate funding so all children have a solid education.  [her emphasis]
I hope that David Hespe heeds Jennifer Beck's advise and if he cannot properly aid Red Bank that he reject this charter school expansion.

Please, if you want to help Red Bank Boro and other underaided districts, please sign this state aid petition from Our Fair Share!

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