Hatikvah Letter - Highland Park School District

Highland Park Public Schools
435 Mansfield Street
Highland Park, NJ 08904
Israel Soto, Superintendent
Phone: (732)-572-6990 ext 2813
Fax: (732)-393-1174
February, 3, 2015
Dear Highland Park Residents,
Hatikvah International Academy Charter School (Hatikvah) is a K-5 Hebrew-language immersion charter
school located in East Brunswick. Although East Brunswick is Hatikvah’s only approved sending district,
each year the number of Highland Park students attending the charter has slowly increased. As you may
recall, last year the Highland Park Board of Education informed residents that Hatikvah had applied to
expand enrollment as part of their renewal application.
The expansion request was denied, citing a decline in the charter’s academic performance, but a five-year
renewal of the charter was granted. The renewal clearly delineated Hatikvah’s enrollment numbers for the
2014-15 through 2018-19 school years, capping enrollment at 50 students per grade in grades K-5, for a
total of 300 students for the next five years.
Despite the denial of the application, and a subsequent dismissal of Hatikvah’s appeal of the denial, on
November 13, 2014 the Hatikvah Board of Directors approved two resolutions, in which they asked
Commissioner of Education David Hespe to amend their charter to either add grades 6-8 or add an
additional class per grade. These charter amendments would add 150 seats or 125 seats, respectively.
Hatikvah is only approved to serve students in East Brunswick, yet in order to fill the 300 seats for which
they are currently approved, the charter draws students from 20 districts in 5 counties across the state.
Only 54% of the students currently enrolled actually live in East Brunswick, which means 46% of their
enrollment is coming from the other 19 districts.
Highland Park has the 2nd highest number of students attending Hatikvah, with 21 students currently
enrolled. This is costing the taxpayers of Highland Park $309,824 for the 2014-15 school year, but this is
only part of the story. When districts prepare their yearly budget, the state informs them of the proposed
charter school tuition they must set aside. For the 2014-15 budget Highland Park was told to set aside a
startling $406,386 for 27 students.
This means that over $100,000 was unnecessarily budgeted for charter school payments to Hatikvah
in our 2014-15 budget. These are funds that the district was therefore unable to allocate to programs
and/or staff to serve Highland Park students.
Since 2010 school districts have been held to a 2% budget cap each year, making it increasingly difficult
to meet rising costs. It is important to note that for the 2014-15 budget year the 2% cap figure was
$464,178. The total tuition for Hatikvah represents 86% of our budget cap, and the amount we were
forced to set aside was 21% over our cap.
It is evident that any expansion will have an ever-increasing impact on the taxpayers of Highland Park,
threatening both the financial strength of the district and the competitiveness of the District’s educational
offerings. The Highland Park Board of Education has submitted a Resolution opposing the expansion
application to Commissioner Hespe. In addition, our state legislators, Senator Peter Barnes,
Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan and Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin have sent a letter to the
Commissioner asking him to deny the expansion. We are very fortunate to have the support of our
representatives in Trenton; please take a moment to call or email and thank them for their support."
However, to truly be heard, we need your help. A petition has been started by East Brunswick residents to
oppose the expansion. We ask that you add your voice, and tell Commissioner Hespe that you oppose the
Thank you for all you do to support the Highland Park Public School District.
Adam M. Sherman
Israel Soto
President, Highland Park Board of Education
Interim Superintendent of Schools