Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hoboken Board of Education Confuses Linear and Exponential Growth in Claims of Charter School Funding

Figure 1: Linear Growth…not exponential
I was asked recently to clarify if the growth in funding for charter schools in Hoboken was exponential as has been stated. What follows is my analysis and disappointment at the misappropriation of terms. But, as it turns out, it is not the first time terminology has been misappropriated. 
Apparently, some members of the Kids First fraction of the Hoboken Board of Education seem to excel at making unsubstantiated claims. For instance, in March of 2014 one member claimed in a national article that the school district was being bankrupted by charter schools. But in January of 2015 we found that the Hoboken School District had a surplus of $1.5 million dollars as announced during their annual audit in December of 2014 (CLICK HERE and go to 24:00 to hear it for yourself). Difficult, by definition, to go bankrupt when you have a surplus. There were also claims of "white flight" in the same article that were also shown to be without merit, and of course errors about "average" temperature and climate data. Saying things forcefully and confidently make for effective rhetoric but does not necessarily assure accuracy. 

Currently, The Hoboken School District  claims the "exponentially" increasing funding impact charters are having on the District's budget is causing budgetary problems. In fact, the district is using aspects of such an argument to justify and support a lawsuit which has sought at various times to both revoke Hola's charter renewal as well as revoke its application for expansion. Such revocation would negatively impact hundreds of students and families in Hoboken.  
"The January 30, 2015 submission also outlined the exponentially increasing funding impact charters were having on the district's budget. Just in the last year, funding rose by $1 million" -Hoboken Board of Education June 5, 2015
 As many may realize, the use of the word "exponentially" is inaccurate at best, deceptive, ill-informed and erroneous at worst. The growth in charter school funding along with the corresponding student enrollment growth is arithmetical (increases by a certain amount every year) rather than exponential (doubles during a certain period)--see Figure 1.
"Saying things forcefully and confidently unfortunately does not assure accuracy"
In short, exponential growth grows faster and faster while arithmetical growth is  steady (see Figure 1). In the matter at hand, the increase in charter school funding is directly related to student enrollment and is reasonably predictable, directly dependent on student enrollment and is neither exponential nor is it growing exponentially
Excerpt from Hoboken Board of Education legal documents
against Hoboken's Charter Schools 

The confusion, misunderstanding and misappropriation of mathematical concepts and terminology misapplied to issues of educational policy, administration, and decision making by the Hoboken Board of Education is disappointing. 
Linear vs Exponential Growth

Note: Here is a wonderful problem intended for high school students the illustrates the difference between exponential growth and linear growth. It might be good practice to be able to work through this problem before initiating lawsuits in which you use such terminology.

"We're not against Hola, we're against the formula"

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