ELC Calls on Legislature to Investigate
Following the revelation by the Attorney General in a court hearing last week that New Jersey has many more charter schools than the 87 in the Department of Education’s (DOE) official count, a preliminary investigation by Education Law Center shows that the number of operating charter schools is well over 100 and could exceed 130.
ELC will present this information today to the Senate Education Committee, which is holding a hearing on the status of New Jersey’s charter school program.
ELC will testify to the Committee that it is impossible to know “exactly how many charter schools are now open in New Jersey districts. The DOE does not make this information public. All we know is that the DOE lists 87 charters on its website, a number the Attorney General concedes is not accurate. We also don’t know how the DOE approved these additional charter schools, and whether they were authorized in compliance with existing law.”
As ELC will explain to the Committee, implementation of NJ’s charter school law under the Christie Administration has radically altered the program without legislative authorization.
“Instead, the Administration has encouraged and allowed charter schools to serve as replacements for district schools and, if current trends continue in some districts, replace the district itself as the primary provider of public education to children,” the ELC testimony reads. “In Newark, we estimate that charters have already been authorized to serve upwards of 40% or more of all district students. Recent approvals in Camden authorize three national charter chains – Mastery, Uncommon and KIPP – to open 16 schools enrolling 9,000 students, over 70% of the district’s total student enrollment.”
In fact, the testimony goes on to say, it appears that the DOE no longer authorizes charter schools as the law requires, but instead authorizes charter operators to open multiple schools.
ELC is calling on the Legislature to conduct a thorough investigation of the charter program before considering any changes to the current law. This is especially true in the case of proposals to empower additional entities beyond the DOE to grant charters.
ELC urges legislators to seek “a full accounting of the number of individual charter schools in operation in each district and information about the operators of those schools” along with “the impact of this growth in charter schools and enrollments on key factors, including the loss of essential programs, staff and services in the budgets of district schools and the segregation and isolation of students by race, socio-economic status, English language barriers, disability, and other at-risk factors in resource-depleted district schools.”
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