TRENTON, NJ— More than 50 public charter school families and advocates gathered outside of the state Department of Education to show their support for charter schools and present a report recommending ways to improve charter schools across the state, including a call for fairer funding.
The rally comes as officials from the DOE wrap up a tour of New Jersey to hear from those who are most impacted by charter schools about what the state could do to improve its charter school laws.
Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, along with other NJDOE officials, toured 11 charter schools and held 20 community focus groups and stakeholder meetings around the state, including in Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, Plainfield, Jersey City and Paterson.
"Charter schools only receive about 73 cents on the dollar in local and state aid compared to traditional public schools," Harry Lee, interim president of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, said during the rally. "The School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) should be revised so that public charter school students receive the same funding as traditional public school students."
The report from the New Jersey Charter Schools Association includes a summary of findings it gathered from the meetings the DOE held, and recommendations for next steps.
In addition to calling for fairer funding of charter schools, the report calls for greater access to school buildings, more operational autonomy and the rewarding of high performing charter schools, among other recommendations.
“If the true focus of this review is to change policy, to do what is best for students and communities, the department [of education] should listen to what they heard from parents and charter school educators,” Lee said.
Lee also called for the state department to do a comprehensive, data-driven review of charter school performance in New Jersey to compliment its outreach report, which is expected to be completed in the coming months.
“In 2018, black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students outperformed their statewide peers across the state by 9 or 10 points on PARCC,” Lee said. “Charter schools are doing something right, especially in our urban communities, in providing great choices for families.”
Since taking office in January, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has rejected all 13 charter school applications submitted to the state for approval, as the new governor has called for a "time out" on charter schools. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which endorsed Murphy in the gubernatorial race, has called for a moratorium on the approval of new charter schools, where the majority of teachers are non-unionized.
The Murphy administration has already adopted recommendations championed by the NJEA to weaken standardized testing requirements and charter advocates are concerned about the NJEA's outsized influence in the administration is driving its review of charter schools.
Speaking to TAPinto Paterson following the rally Bob Guarasci, Founder, Community Charter School of Paterson, said that “charter schools in Paterson are an important part of the public school landscape, and what’s amazing is the collaborative way in which local charters and the Paterson school district work together and support each other."
"It’s recognition that we’re all in the same business of providing a public education to Paterson kids and striving for student success,” the long-time community leader added of the relationship.
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