I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, December 2, 2011

Charter Churn

Darcie twitter-pointed to this interview with Chris Christie, where he made a truly amazing statement (about 31:30):

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Caller: Governor, I'm from Cherry Hill, NJ, and we have high performing school districts. My question for you is, why would your administration have a charter school accepted in Cherry Hill? We have some of the best schools in the state, and now we have this charter school, which should not have been approved in the first place. You've got an organization that's running a ministry for ex-offenders, which is zoned to be on the same site as the charter school. And additionally, we had a gentleman who was living on the site, who robbed several houses in our neighborhood. Also, there's one letter of recommendation that was in the application which appears to be falsified. Why on earth would something like this be approved? 
Governor Christie: Well, Rita, first of all, the charter school law provides for charter schools to be available all across the state.  I will tell you that it's my preference - and I've made this really clear publicly a number of times - that charter schools be put in failing school districts, not in successful ones, in order to try and create greater innovation, greater achievement, and greater options for children who have failed school districts. So you and I don't disagree on that. 
I can't speak to the specific facts that you talked about, in the charter school application that you reference, 'cause - I'm sure you're not surprised to know that I don't review the charter school applications personally, and that these are decisions made by the [ACTING!  - JJ] Commissioner of Education. I will certainly ask Commissioner Cerf about the circumstances that you raised in Cherry Hill; we have your contact information. And we'll get back to you as to the answers on that.  
But, what I will tell you in general is, I've continued to emphasize to the educational community, that I think charter schools should predominately, if not exclusively, be in failing schools districts, where you can provide people with innovative options to failing neighborhood schools. [emphasis mine]
What's the fallout from this statement? Well - and I can't say whether this is causation or just correlation - one week later:
New Jersey's charter school director, on the job for less than a dozen months, will be stepping down at the end of this year to take a new job in Chicago public schools.
Carly Bolger, director of the state Department of Education's charter school office, said her decision was "100 percent personal," since she is moving because of a relationship in Chicago. Finding the right job as director of Chicago's New Schools Office helped determine the timing, she said.
"My time here has been an incredible experience," she said yesterday. "I have worked with great people and created a great team, and I think really charted the course for where New Jersey is heading with charter schools."
You sure did - and that course is away from them.

Chris Christie is many things, but he is not a fool. The backlash against charters and vouchers in the 'burbs is truly a grassroots movement, spurred by taxpayers and parents who know better than to trade their great public schools for snake oil. These people are his base: he is nothing without them. And he knows the 'burbs were none too happy with his cuts in state aid. It speaks volumes that only 20 districts in the state turned their extra state aid from this past summer into tax gifts: the 'burbs do not want Trenton to screw around with the schools that keep their property values high and their quality of life great.

So these guys have made the decision that it's just not worth the fight: especially when the news has gone out that Waiting For Superman was just a movie and charters aren't the miracle cures their cheerleaders claim them to be. And if they're not going to fight, maybe some of the staff needed to move on - maybe.

One other little tidbit from the article:
Bolger said she would remain through the end of the calendar year, and also assist in the sometimes controversial review of charter applications. The department over the past year has been criticized for using outside reviewers, whom it has refused to identify but turned out to be largely charter school leaders and advocates.
Charter advocates were not fans of the latest process, either, calling it a vague and poorly designed system that led to just four of more than 50 applications being approved in the latest round. A report by the Washington-based Center for Education Reform yesterday slammed the application process for what it called its lack of transparency and objectivity.
Outside reviewers from around the country will be part of the current application process as well, Bolger said, but the names will be released after the process is finished. The reviewers also will not be paid this time, officials said.
I addressed this double-secret charter review panel earlier; Darcie in the comments claimed it was Bolger who was quite insistent on keeping the names of the reviewers secret. It took the Education Law Center and the ACLU a year to get the names released, so it's not like the DOE was thrilled with the idea of transparency. And why do the names have to be released after the review; wouldn't it be better to release the names before for public scrutiny?

In any case, now that Bolger's leaving, I guess if we'll see whether Lord High Executioner Cerf will be as stubborn as he has been in keeping a tight grip on the flow of information about charter school reviews. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing who is on his little list.

(catch the dig at Murdoch?)


Anonymous said...

In a meeting with Bolger prior to the OPRA forcing the release of reviewer's names, she said she was perfectly comfortable keeping the names secret because if they were publicly known people would be trying to persuade and influence the reviewers. She said she was fine taking the heat for the secrecy. I think the heat may have been too much. Any coincidence that she is going to the state where Carlos Perez came from?

Duke said...

Or to the land of Arne Duncan and the smarmy Jonah Edelman. Bolger is typical of the autocratic rule of DOEs to be found in the administrations of "reformy" governors. The antidote is the terrific grassroots actions against this nonsense we've seen this past year.

The parents will ultimately be the ones to stop this crap. The more they stand up, the better.

Thx for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I had to go searching for the list you mentioned (http://www.aclu-nj.org/news/2011/11/17/one-year-after-initial-request-department-of-education-agrees-to-release-records/) as I'd not seen it yet. I was so eager in finding it because I was placing a Monopoloy-money bet that two names were on that list: Derrell Bradford and Meredith Pennotti. Let me tell you a little something about her, as I'm guessing you don't know her. She's the principal at the Red Bank Charter School in Red Bank, NJ. She's been cozying up to higher ups in NJ government for the last 13 years of her principalship. I would consider her to be as lethal in the charter school arena as Derrell Bradford. She's been lobbying for charters for years, parading the likes of Christine Todd Whitman and former senators like (disgraced) John O. Bennett through the school like they were putting on a dog and pony show. The district has a 19 million dollar budget this year and that charter school that houses 180 students gets a whopping 1.68 million for it's lack of academic efforts. It's truly astounding. So watch for her name in other places and connect the dots. She's a woman of wealth, living in Allenhurst with a husband that makes good money. I guarantee you she'll be around for a long time in the charter arena.

Duke said...

Anon, I'll keep an eye out for her. So may reformy types; so little time...

Thx for stopping by.