Podcast: Conflict Over Charter Schools Flares Up Anew in Florence

Proposed expansion of alternative school sparks controversy, opposition

New Jersey’s latest battle over the expansion of a charter school in Florence Township in Burlington County has sparked anew the debate over where best to place the alternative schools.

NJ Spotlight’s education writer John Mooney joined WHYY Public Radio’s David Heller yesterday to in the push and pull taking place in Florence over the application of Riverbank Charter School of Excellence to expand.

The four-year-old charter school has applied to the state to add two more grades, allowing it to serve more than 70 more students. But it has faced resistance from the local Florence district over the added financial strain it will place on the Florence schools.

While critics stepped up their opposition, and the neighboring school district in Mansfield reportedly passed its own resolution against the expansion, charter advocates said the state was entering dangerous territory.

“This is just another example of the education establishment firing its engines back up to stop the growth of a successful public school,” said Carlos Perez, director of the state’s charter school association. “This fight, and the others like it, continue to polarize communities and not focus on moving education forward.”

Mooney and Heller talked about the many factors that go into the debate, from the financial implications for both the local and charter schools to the different measures applied to charter schools in the cities versus the suburbs — and what the state can do about it.

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