We are so proud of our #FAmily member and grandparent Charlotte Tullo, who has joined with parents from Paterson, Newark, and Camden, along with the New Jersey Charter School Association, to file briefs with the New Jersey Supreme Court in the long-running Abbott v. Burke line of cases.
In her compelling Op-Ed published in The Trentonian this weekend, Ms. Tullo raises the point that EVERY child in EVERY district, magnet, charter, and renaissance school, should be able to learn in a safe, healthy, and secure school building.
Thank you, Ms. Tullo, for speaking up on behalf of New Jersey’s public school students!
See the Op-Ed below:
Guest Op-Ed: Public schools need to get proper funding
By Charlotte Tullo
Originally published via The Trentonian on February 14, 2020
Last week, I joined with a group of parents from Trenton, Paterson, Newark, and Camden to take a stand for the public schools in our communities. We filed a brief asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to ensure that ALL public schools in our communities receive the funding they need for repairing, renovating and construction school buildings: meaning every district, magnet, charter, and renaissance school.
Every child should be able to attend school in a safe, healthy school building, and for almost 20 years, the state of New Jersey has funded the cost of school construction projects in cities like mine: Trenton.
This led to $12 billion in spending on school facilities across the state, which has been vital to making sure that more New Jersey kids can go to school in buildings that foster their learning. While the state has made progress in twenty years, the work is still incomplete. I got involved in this case once I learned that the state agency in charge of this school construction program has run out of funds for new projects and the issue is before the state’s highest court.
But some things have changed since the court first ruled on this issue twenty years ago, and our brief points this out. Back in 1998, public charter schools had just been created. Today, public charters enroll about 54,000 students across the state, and educate nearly one-in-five students in these former Abbott districts. My three children are among them, as they attend a Trenton public charter school. Yet because these charter and renaissance schools didn’t exist twenty years ago, the schools have never received a dime from this school construction program.
Also, our students today also face new threats to their safety at school that weren’t on our radars 20 years ago, like the risk of mass shootings and the discovery of lead contamination in school water systems. These issues have implications for how schools are built and repaired. These are also common needs that affect all students, regardless of what kind of school they attend or where it is located.
In Trenton, my story is probably similar to others, as finding the right school match among several public options has made all the difference for my family.
I’m raising my three grandchildren, so I think of them as my own kids. All three are wonderful children. Each has faced unique challenges, though. All of my children have special needs, and have Individualized Education Plans.
When I first got custody of my kids, I was new to Trenton. I enrolled my kids in our local district schools; I didn’t know there was an alternative. The traditional public school we enrolled in was not a bad school – there were dedicated teachers working hard there every day. But as a parent of kids with special needs, I wanted to find a school that was a better fit for my child.
After several years, a woman from my church recommended that I take a look at Foundation Academy – a public charter school in Trenton. I’d never heard of Foundation before. Little did I know, this conversation would change the course of my children’s lives.
At Foundation, I’ve been a full partner in my kids’ educational journey. The teachers and administrators developed detailed IEPs for each of them, tailored to their specific needs. They were available whenever I needed – even if it meant a phone call late at night, to make sure that my kids were on track. All the hard work has started to pay off. My granddaughter is a senior this year, and she’s already been accepted to several colleges. When I think about how far she’s come since we started at Foundation, I’m in awe of what she has accomplished.
I tell this story because so many other parents have similar ones. In communities like mine, parents choose from a variety of district and charter schools, all with a common commitment to educate the city’s children.
That’s why I joined this brief and why I support funding for all the public schools in my city: district, magnet, and charter. Any plan to fund school construction should add public charter and renaissance school student needs alongside our city’s district and magnet schools, so that every kid receives the support they need.
This is about bringing more funding to cities like Trenton if our state leaders will deliver on the promise of the state’s constitution, and fund this urgent priority for our children.
Charlotte Tullo lives in Trenton, NJ. Her three grandchildren attend Foundation Academy Charter School.
To learn more about this case and see other articles that quote Ms. Tullo, please visit the following links.
From the New Jersey Charter School Association:
Trenton, Paterson, Newark, and Camden Parents Join State Charter Association and Ask Supreme Court to Include Charter and Renaissance Schools in Court-Ordered Plan for School Facilities Funding
NJ Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge to Expansion of Charter Schools in Newark