rbcs 021016O’Scanlon says underfunding of the local school district should be “preemptively disqualifying” of the proposed charter school expansion. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


HOT-TOPIC_02New Jersey Assemblyman and self-described school-choice supporter Declan O’Scanlon calls the proposed expansion of the Red Bank Charter School “ill-informed” and says it should be rejected.

In what he calls a “data-driven” analysis of the plan, O’Scanlon calls on state Education Commissioner David Hespe to deny the request, and adds that he would “question” the merits of the proposal even if, as other critics have demanded, the state fully funds the local school district from which the charter school sprang 17 years ago.

  o'scanlon 110315O’Scanlon, seen in Red Bank on election day last November. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

O’Scanlon’s comments on the controversial expansion plan, which would double enrollment over three years, to 400 students, were made in a letter to Hespe dated January 25 and obtained by redbankgreen on Monday.

In it, he said the local district, along with Freehold and others, “suffers from a level of underadequacy funding that is as destructive as it is offensive to any unbiased observer.” Until that situation is “100 percent rectified, there should be no consideration of further-resource-sapping charter school expansions in these chronically underfunded districts. To be honest, even then I would question a charter expansion in Red Bank,” he wrote.

O’Scanlon said in the letter that the adverse financial impact on the district should be a “preemptively disqualifying” factor.

He also cites a lack of “apples-to-apples performance comparisons” of charter and district students; the rebound of the district schools in the years since the charter school opened; and the outpouring of support for the district schools unleashed by the charter plan.

“The community — Democrat and Republican, Latina, black and white, wealthy and poor — has rallied to support the district schools and oppose the charter expansion,” O’Scanlon told Hespe. “There simply is zero groundswell of support for the charter expansion.”

Here’s O’Scanlon’s letter: o’scanlon rbcs letter 012516

O’Scanlon declined to comment on the letter Monday, and charter school Principal and Superintendent Meredith Pennotti did not respond to a request for comment.

With his opposition, O’Scanlon is aligned with state Senator Jennifer Beck, a former Red Bank council member and fellow Republican who has also said the charter expansion should not be allowed. Otherwise, it would have “devastating” financial consequences on the local school district, she has said.

The administration of GOP Governor Chris Christie, however, has signaled a determine to rapidly expand the reach of charter schools statewide.

O’Scanlon, of Little Silver, included Red Bank among the towns he represented in Trenton as a 12-District assembly member before redistricting put him in the 13th in 2011. In his letter, O’Scanlon acknowledges his non-representation of Red Bank, but says his position on the charter plan “is purely motivated by my sense of fairness and decency.”

A Department of Education spokesman did not respond to a request sent Monday for an update on Hespe’s decision.

Here’s the charter school’s application to the DOE: RBCS Amendment Request Dec 2015