Things could get heated on Friday afternoon at Maplewood's DeHart Community Center as a proponent of charter schools is now planning to hold a pro-charter rally concurrently with the anti-charter rally already planned for Friday at 4:30 p.m.
West Orange resident Adam Kraemer is planning the counter-rally Friday, to make a case for charter schools coming to suburbia.
"I'm a proponent of options and choice," he told Patch. "Knowing that there's charters and options out there keeps schools on their toes … it's healthy competition."
Kraemer said he plans to stand outside the Maplewood Community Center in DeHart Park Friday starting at 4 p.m.
The anti-charter school rally — aimed at protesting the application by the Hua Mei Charter School that would draw from the South Orange-Maplewood and West Orange school districts — will take place at 4:30 p.m. inside the Maplewood Community Center and will include appearances by State Senator Richard Codey, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman John McKeon.
"There needs to be some counter-argument present," Kraemer said. He hopes others will join him in passing out pro-charter school literature and informing the community that these so-called 'boutique' schools actually have a place in suburban Essex County.
"Parents should control the focus of their kids' education … I view it as something that can make good performing schools even better," said Kraemer, father of triplets currently enrolled at St. Cloud Elementary School in West Orange.
Though he said he likely would not enroll his children at Hua Mei should the school be approved by the state, he's hopeful Hua Mei will be the beginning of a "charter school movement" in the area.
Contrary to the concerns vetted by school officials and anti-charter school advocates, Kraemer contends charter schools will alleviate taxpayers and school districts, such as West Orange, that are struggling with overcapacity or overpopulation. (The charter application by Hua Mei has also met with formal public oppositiom from the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and the Maplewood Township Committee.)
"Any system that would take students out (of public schools) will save the taxpayer from paying for additional schools and hiring more teachers," he said. "While it's true that the tuition will have to go out of the district, it's equally true that every student that leaves the public school system will cost less to educate in the public school district."
The state will continue its review of the remaining charter school applications, requesting additional information and in-person interviews from the schools still under consideration. Final approvals are to be announced Jan. 17.