NJEA Endorses LegislatorsAugust 3, 2009
NEA DeclassifiedAugust 5, 2009
The DOE gave final approval to 6 new charter schools, which will all open in September: The Institute for Excellence Charter School in Winslow, Riverbank Charter School of Excellence in Florence, Dr. Ellen G. Pressman Charter School in Plainfield, The Ethical Community Charter School in Jersey City, Newark Educators Community Charter School in Newark, and the Vineland Public Charter School in Vineland,
It’s news with something to offend everyone. Charter school advocates will gripe that 6 is a paltry number and we have 11,000 kids on waiting lists, mostly in poor urban areas. Charter school disparagers will bemoan this year’s approval of 6 charters, as opposed to last year’s approval of 2. Local school boards will fear the loss of income since they’ll be writing checks for 90% of each child’s per pupil cost to send to new charter students. NJEA will worry about a burgeoning number of non-unionized teachers.
Corzine will use it as ammunition. Christie will use it as ammunition. What else is new? (Special bonus: look at this anti-Christie ad just out from the N.J. AFL-CIO explaining why his views on charter schools and vouchers spell imminent demise for the Garden State.)
It would be healthy for everyone (especially the kids) if we found way to de-politicize the charter school movement, even just a little. The Hall Institute of Public Policy’s recent report – which found mixed results for charters across the country – explains why New Jersey was not included in the data analysis:
New Jersey is the only state to invest in one person, the commissioner of education, the responsibility of authorization. As most other states charge single or multiple boards with that responsibility, the effects of New Jersey’s unique charter policy and that of other states are not comparable in studies such as the foregoing.
In other words, the person with power to approve or reject a charter school application is a political appointee, our Commissioner of Education. And no other state does it this way.
Who came up with this system? Can we admit that it’s not working all that well? (N.J.’s original charter school legislation placed a cap on charter schools: 145. That’s gone away, maybe because we’ve never even come close to that number, despite the demand. Obama’s measure of charter school non-receptivity — the presence of caps — may need a little tweaking.)
Charter schools will not fix our public education system. But they are a piece of a larger educational reform agenda with much promise. One step in the right direction would be to transfer the authority to approve charters from a single political appointee to a committee comprised of all stakeholders. What do you think?