The founders of the Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) misused the intent of the charter school law to get their school approved on an expedited basis in the waning days of the Corzine administration. In spite of their rhetoric, the simple fact is the proposed school is a boutique private school masquerading as a charter school. The taxpayers in the townships affected were not given a choice to fund or not to fund this non-public education institution.
We understand PIACS is again trying to take advantage of procedures at the township level. They want to use a substandard facility to house their school. A few years ago, when faced with a shortage of classroom space, the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District looked at the same facility to house its kindergarten children. They decided not to pursue the option since many costly modifications were needed. PIACS is also trying to get a change in zoning to have a school in a facility zoned for commercial businesses.
We understand the kindergarten class at PIACS is full. That is not a surprise since parents in West Windsor and Plainsboro are going to get full-day kindergarten at the school when the district only offers a half-day program. As taxpayers and voters we have questions for the decision makers regarding their desire to push this boutique school at the expense of taxpayers in these communities at a time when every politician is talking about ways to reduce property taxes.
How can the Department of Education force taxpayers in West Windsor and Plainsboro to fund a full-day kindergarten program at PIACS when the taxpayers can not afford to fund the program at the WW-P public school district?
How can the Department of Education allow PIACS to use a facility that would not be approved to host a public school kindergarten? If anything the standards for charter schools should be stricter than standards for public schools since charter schools have no taxpayer oversight in the form of elected representatives.
How can the zoning board in Plainsboro approve the request for a change in zoning in an expedited manner when such a request is going to cost the taxpayers in Plainsboro twice? First the charter school is going to take money away from the public schools to the tune of $800,000. Second, it is going to convert the property from office/commercial use to educational use; in other words convert from a property tax-paying facility to a tax-exempt facility. The taxpayers in Plainsboro can not afford this loss of ratable at a time when our property taxes are increasing substantially this year.
We urge both state and local elected officials to consider the detrimental effect of this boutique school before the final approval is granted.
Diana Li, Kathy Liu,
Shirren Wang, Nancy Wu, Dawei Wang, Jia Mi