In re Renewal Application of TEAM Academy Charter School is the lead case among seven consolidated appeals, brought by ELC on behalf of the Abbott v. Burke schoolchildren, challenging the February 2016 decisions by the NJ Commissioner of Education granting enrollment expansion in seven Newark charter schools. The cumulative effect of the decisions is to permit the significant and rapid growth of the Newark charter school population, while substantially decreasing the amount of money available to serve students in district schools and increasing the segregation of at-risk children within the district’s schools, as well as racial segregation within the charter schools.

ELC is pursuing these appeals with the pro bono assistance of the Pashman Stein Walder Hayden law firm. 

NJ Appellate Division

In April 2016, ELC filed an appeal of the Commissioner’s decision to grant the expansion applications of the seven Newark charter schools in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.  Shortly thereafter the Appellate Division granted ELC’s motion to consolidate all of the expansion decisions into a single appeal since they all raised the identical legal issues.

ELC filed its opening brief in February 2017, arguing that the Commissioner violated both constitutional and statutory obligations to Newark public school children by approving the charter schools’ expansion requests without evaluating and assessing the impact of the loss of funding and resources in the district schools and the segregative effect expansion would have on the district population.

In its brief, ELC cited its research submitted to the Commissioner on the applications, which included: 1) increasing payments to charter schools from the district budget over the last five years; 2) severe cuts to essential staff and services in district schools; 3) an increase in the numbers of students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELL) served by the district; and 4) an intensification of the racial segregation existing in the charter schools. The State and charter schools filed briefs in opposition.

On March 7, 2019, the Appellate Division issued a ruling upholding the Commissioner’s expansion decision, relying mainly on the fact that the Newark district, then under State control, did not oppose charter schools’ applications.

NJ Supreme Court

Following the Appellate Division’s ruling, ELC petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court to grant certification (review) of the ruling, citing several significant errors of constitutional law.

On February 10, 2020, the Supreme Court granted the petition, specifying that it will review whether the Commissioner’s decision to approve the expansion was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable in three respects: 1) the failure to evaluate the impact of the loss of funding from the charter expansion on the Newark district’s ability to provide a thorough and efficient education to its students; 2) the failure to evaluate the impact on patterns of segregation in the Newark district by disability, language proficiency and race; and 3) the failure to apply a heightened standard of review on charter applications in Newark as district covered by the Supreme Court’s funding and other orders in the Abbott v. Burke litigation to remedy a longstanding violation of Newark students constitutional right to a thorough and efficient education.