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Letters to the editor: Your editorial was misleading


Your editorial was misleading

I feel compelled to write to you in response to your March 3 editorial, “The answer can’t always be no.” Your assertion that opposition to the Riverhead Charter School’s planned expansion on Sound Avenue is “more knee jerk than well-reasoned” is offensive to the residents of this town. I write now not as the president of the Board of Education of the Riverhead Central School District, but as a Northville resident who shares the concerns of my neighbors about the expansion of privatized education in our community. 

I take exception to your assertion that the charter school “is not a private institution.” It operates in the manner of a private school, only it is funded with taxpayer money. While land preservation is a large part of the debate, the impact on public education is equally important.

Charter schools do not have the same oversights as public school districts. Charter school teachers, for the most part, do not need to be state certified. All teachers in the Riverhead Central School District must have state certification and must, by state regulation, obtain their master’s degree within five years of entering the classroom to retain their jobs. The boards of charter schools are not elected, so while taxpayer money comprises the largest percentage of charter school funding, taxpayers have no say in a charter school’s budget or how it is operated. 

By describing the charter school as serving a need in the community by supporting marginalized students, your editorial diminishes the RCSD students from those same groups. Our public schools in Riverhead are 74% minority (63% Hispanic/Latino) and 62% economically disadvantaged — we are already serving the needs of these groups. 

Yes, the Riverhead Charter School has the right to be taken seriously. However, the faults of charter schools, the inequity of how they are funded, and in this case, the real and well thought-out concerns of residents in the Northville community need to be taken as seriously by not only our elected officials, but also the fourth estate, of which the News-Review is a member. 

Colin Palmer


Needed money is being diverted away

On Friday, Riverhead Central School District began the process of workforce reduction by eliminating the positions of 54.8 educational professionals district-wide. We cannot have a conversation about the fiscal state of the district without being honest about the significant and ongoing impact that the Gap Elimination Adjustment, Riverhead’s Foundation Aid shortfall, the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency and the Riverhead Charter School have had on our students, our school and the taxpayers of Riverhead.

From 2010 to 2016, the Gap Elimination Adjustment diverted $13,851,313 from Riverhead. From 2009 to 2023 Riverhead’s Foundation Aid was underfunded by $188,551,040. From 2014 to 2021, Riverhead IDA abated $23 million in taxes. From 2011 to 2024, RCSD and its taxpayers have paid $73,209,338 in charter school tuition.

This means that at least $300 million in revenue has been diverted from Riverhead Central School District. This year alone, $14,362,107 has been siphoned from our coffers. $2.7 million is from Riverhead IDA tax abatements and the other $11,662,107 is for tuition to the Riverhead Charter School. $14,362,107 is the equivalent of over 145 educational professional positions that could have an immediate, direct, and lasting impact on our students. If that money stayed with the district we would be adding positions and not reducing positions.

The constant growth of the Riverhead Charter School has had a direct impact on the revenue of the school district. When a charter school is established, its funding takes priority over a public school. They are in essence the first lien holder.

When our school budget failed, and the children of Riverhead went without, it did not affect the Riverhead Charter School funding. When Riverhead public schools had a large influx of high-need students that required a host of resources, it did not affect Riverhead Charter School funding. When the state failed to provide Riverhead $188 million in foundation aid which we were legally entitled to, it did not affect Riverhead Charter school funding.

Since 2011, the Riverhead Charter School has received nearly $75 million in taxpayer dollars, yet the taxpayers of Riverhead have no legal right to see how their money was spent. This year alone, Riverhead Charter School has siphoned $11.6 million from Riverhead Central School District, depleting funds that are needed for essential services for the children of our school district.

Every dollar given to Riverhead charter schools means fewer resources available for Riverhead public schools and once again our students will suffer a reduction in programs, while the Riverhead Charter School funding per student will increase next year. This is a parasitic relationship and Riverhead Central School District is the host organism.

Gregory Wallace

Mr. Wallace is president of the Riverhead Central School District Faculty Association.