Chris Christie is back in Jersey doing what he does best: talking up charter schools.
Charter schools are growing rapidly in New Jersey, and one charter school is among the top in the state. Governor Chris Christie is meeting with students at the Thomas Edison Energy Smart School, a school where robots and high-tech are part of the everyday curriculum.
Governor Christie is commending the school that ranks third out of ten in the state for high math and science test scores.
"Every child has extraordinary God-given potential. It is our job to maximize that God-given potential. When we settle for traditional public schools, we settle for less for families. To me, that's immoral," said Governor Christie. [emphasis mine]Oh, really? You know what I think is immoral, Governor? Setting up charter schools that don't enroll children with special education needs yet are held harmless in their funding -- all while leaving those children in underfunded public district schools.
Here are the special education percentages for TE EnergySmart and its host districts. According to news sources, most of the charter's students come from Franklin Township, which has a classification rate of 16.4 percent. Compare that to TE EnergySmart's paltry 2.7 percent rate.
Hold on - it gets worse*:
The very few special needs students TE EnergySmart takes have low-cost disabilities: SLDs and speech impairments. The kids who are autistic, or have emotional disturbances, or are blind, or have multiple disabilities are educated by the district public schools.
It is immoral that Chris Christie refuses to acknowledge that the charter school he praises does not educate any significant share of special needs students.
And, yes, it does get worse:
TE EnergySmart's students are far less likely to live in economic disadvantage than the students in the charter's host districts. Keep in mind, most of the students at the charter come from Franklin Township, where the district schools have many more free lunch students proportionally.
Yes, it does get worse:
Franklin has many black students -- but they don't go to Christie's beloved charter school. So who does enroll at TE EnergySmart?
Over 70 percent of TE EnergySmart's student population is Asian, compared to less than 20 percent of Franklin's population. This is a stunningly segregated school: by class, by race, and by special education need.
But while TE EnergySmart, like all New Jersey charters, is "held harmless" in its funding, Franklin Township's public schools have had to suffer consistent underfunding for years.
From our friends at the invaluable Education Law Center. The state has failed to come through with adequate aid year after year, which has driven the local levy share up and up. Meanwhile, TE EnergySmart skims off the students who are cheapest to educate, leaving the most expensive students behind.
And yet here stands Chris Christie, mocking the local public schools for doing a job that the charters he praises can not and will not do. It's outrageous.
One more thing: TE EnergySmart has been identified by people who track these things as a Gulen charter school. These schools are linked to a Turkish imam named Fethullah Gulen, who was profiled in this report on 60 Minutes:
The schools have been criticized for their employment practices, including exploiting H1-B visas to allow Turkish nationals to enter the United States and teach in charter schools.
I have to wonder: does Chris Christie know any of this? I wonder what Donald Trump would say if he found out...
* Graph edited 5/17/16 for clarity.