First proposed by Gov. Chris Christie and since taken up by South Jersey Democrats, a plan that would open up select public schools to nonprofit or even for-profit management appears poised for passage in the final days of the legislature's lame duck session.
The proposed Urban Hope Act, at least in its current incarnation, is in part an attempt to speed the glacial pace of getting new schools built in some of New Jersey's poorest districts. The initiative may enlist the aid of the Schools Development Authority, which is often criticized for dragging its feet on projects.
The measure has seen a host of changes since the idea was first announced by Christie at a Camden public school last summer, and then filed as bills by state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) and state Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden).
Initially envisioned as an effort by Christie to convert low-performing public schools to private management, the latest version is focused on building a few new public schools in three districts: Camden, Newark, and Jersey City. Up to four schools could be launched in each district. [emphasis mine]Well, I guess we now know why ACTING Commissioner Cerf doesn't want local control in Newark, handpicked his buddy to be the superintendent there, and is sticking his nose into the Jersey City super search.
As the NJ DOE has shown, they are not much interested these days in open public bidding.Numerous questions remain, since the bill does allow for private management of at least some non-instructional school functions. It also waives public bidding laws for these schools and brings in the potential that some of the projects would be built on SDA land that had been designated by the Supreme Court for district schools.
Hence the Norcrosses' newfound interest in public education.Much of the attention is focused on a project being promoted by Norcrosss' brother, Democratic leader George Norcross, that would use land next to the Cooper Health Systems in Camden, of which he is chairman. The property in Lanning Square had been earmarked for a district public school that has been perennially stalled by the SDA.
Uh-huh. Yeah, it's all about the kids... And so it goes in the world of New Jersey education "reform": "saving" kids by moving tax dollars over to private interests.Norcross, the senator, didn't deny that the Lanning Square site would be a prime candidate for the project, and he said one of the impetuses of the bill as now written is to get long-stalled projects moving in some form. Norcross has been a frequent critic of the SDA's slow action under Christie."There are a number of sites in Camden, and they will all get looked at," he said. "There has been nothing more disappointing than seeing [the Lanning Square site] sit there year after year." [emphasis mine]
I'll tell you one thing: there's no way in the world this bill should pass until the Cerf Charter Report - now 303 days late - comes out. Why should we give money to private charter school operators when we can't even look at the evidence as to whether or not charters work?