The New Jersey Public Charter School Association is calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to reconsider his decision earlier this year to not allow a handful of high-performance public charter schools in the Garden State to expand their operations.

According to NJPCSA government affairs director TJ Best, this decision will mean students in mostly black and brown communities (in what used to be called Abbott school districts) who are now doing well in high achieving charter schools will be forced back into troubled lower-achieving schools.

He pointed out most of the seven public charter schools turned down for expansion, including one in Trenton, had planned to add more students in more grades, but now those plans have been shelved for the time being.

What's the logic?

“They’ve been doing a great job with the students, the kids are learning and they’re achieving, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, they were denied the opportunity to continue moving forward,” Best said.

Public charter schools are the same as regular traditional public schools, except they work off of a four-year contract with the Department of Education, meaning they must be reauthorized every four years.

Oceanside Charter School
Oceanside Charter School (Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media)
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They have the flexibility to offer different programs than regular public schools as well as longer school days and a longer school year, and most charter schools are in session longer than other public schools.

They also get less funding from the state Education Department than regular public schools.

Higher achievement than regular public schools

Best pointed out public charter schools offer smaller class sizes, and they are in high demand among parents because most of these schools have higher test scores than other schools.

“There are 87 throughout the state of New Jersey serving over 60,000 students, with another 25,000 students on waiting lists so parents are choosing with their feet where they want to go,” he said.

“The Newark charter school sector is out-performing the entire state of New Jersey average, and is the highest performing charter school in the country.”

He said there is no good reason to not allow charter schools across the state to expand.

“These schools are benefiting the children and the families, and it’s just mind-blowing that these high performing schools won’t be allowed to continue to grow,” he said

Best said the NJPCSA supports Gov. Phil Murphy and “we also support his rhetoric in supporting high-quality public schools. The charter schools that we are fighting for and advocating for are the same type of schools that he talks about.”

What Murphy says about NJ charter schools

When asked why the governor won’t allow charter schools to expand, a spokesperson issued the following statement:

“Charter schools are an important part of New Jersey’s education community. Each charter school application is considered on a case-by-case basis by which the DOE weighs a number of factors including community demand, existing enrollment, quality of education, and fiscal impact for the district as a whole.”

The New Jersey Education Association was asked to comment on the issue and did not immediately do so. However, a spokesperson noted:

“For several years, NJEA has been calling for a review of the charter school law, which has not undergone any significant review or revision in over a quarter of a century. In 2016, our Delegate Assembly (NJEA’s elected policymaking body) adopted a policy position to oppose any further charter school approvals or expansions until certain basic conditions were met.”

The NJPCSA has launched a campaign to promote charter schools at LetMyChildLearn.com.

The charter schools that have been denied permission to expand are:

  • Paul Robeson Charter School in Trenton
  • Achievers Early College Prep Charter School in Trenton
  • North Star Academy Charter School in Newark
  • Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark
  • Community Charter School of Paterson
  • Central Jersey College Prep in New Brunswick
  • Hudson Arts and Science Charter School in Kearny

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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