Keep in mind that LEAP Academy failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two years. And Rutgers professor Bruce Baker has shown that, when accounting for student demographics, LEAP Academy has actually performed below its expectations. Here, for example, is a graph showing LEAP's relative performance against it's expected performance on the 2010-11 NJASK (the annotation is mine to make it more clear):Two local charter schools, including the city’s oldest, have lost tax-exempt status after failing to file required forms with the IRS for a three-year period.The institutions — LEAP Academy University Charter School and the three-school Camden Pride system — are required to maintain nonprofit status under state law, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education noted Thursday.“We will be examining these issues with each of the schools to determine the next steps we will take,” said DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.Carlos Perez, president of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, called for authorities to focus on keeping the schools open. “They have a good track record,” he said. [emphasis mine]
See how LEAP is below the line across the middle? According to Baker's regression model, LEAP is "below predicted" on the test when considering the students it serves compared to other schools in the state. Here are the 2009 results in 8th Grade math; the graph is a little less cluttered:
Let me be clear: as enlightening as I find Baker's work, I don't think it definitively shows that LEAP should be closed (and Baker almost certainly would agree with me). What I do find disturbing is that Perez, the head charter cheerleader, would suggest that we ought to be closing "failing" charters, but we should still keep LEAP open even though LEAP is under-performing relative to other schools and has serious fiscal problems.
Which begs a question: what is it about LEAP that has earned them a free pass?
Well, LEAP has an exceptionally well-connected Board of Trustees. Many of them have close ties to Rutgers-Camden, which guaranteed the bonds whose tax-exempt status is now in question:
Should LEAP be given a second chance just because it has close ties to the guarantor of its bonds, while schools like Emily Fischer Charter in Trenton, which are not politically connected, are given the axe?LEAP obtained $8.5 million in tax-exempt bonds from the Delaware River Port Authority in 2003 for development and construction of its Cooper Street campus in downtown Camden.IRS spokesman David Stewart on Wednesday said it is too soon to know whether the loss of tax-exempt status will affect LEAP’s outstanding bonds. Lenders typically allow a lower interest rate on such , because their return will not be taxed.Tim Ireland, a spokesman for the DRPA, said the authority “served only as a conduit to the bond market for LEAP,” and that the charter school’s debt is guaranteed by Rutgers-Camden.“The tollpayers (who use DRPA bridges) have no exposure here because of the way the deal was structured,” said Ireland.“Rutgers’ commitment remains unchanged,” said Mike Sepanic, a spokesman for the Camden university. “We are reviewing this situation.”
Where is the consistency?