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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How To Get a Charter School Approved

Are you interested in getting your own charter school? Do you want to increase your chances of getting an approval from the NJ Department of Education? There's one surefire way to dramatically increase your chances of success:

Join the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. From January, 2011:
Rev. Reginald Jackson said he was celebrating after all five charter schools proposed by the Black Ministers Council were approved. They include an East Orange school with single-gender classrooms and a high school offering online instruction and instrumental music classes for students in East Orange, Irvington and Newark.
"I’m aware that most of our children are always going to be in public schools ... but at the same time parents ought to have options," said Jackson, executive director of the council. [emphasis mine]
Wow - you can't argue with a track record like that, right? I wonder: who reviewed the applications?
The reviewers each read several applications, using a scorecard and providing detailed comments and a non-binding recommendation on each proposal. They did not have the final say, however; Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said the decision on approvals was made within the Department of Education.
"We gave these applications a fair shake," said Shelley Skinner, a board member of the New Jersey Charter School Association and director of a Jersey City charter school. [...]
Derrell Bradford, executive director of the school advocacy group E3, said some applications were very strong, and others "needed a lot of work." Each reviewer read about three applications, he said, and several reviewers read each one.
Bradford also said school proposals were vetted for possible conflicts. He, for example, said he did not read applications submitted by the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, whose executive director, Reginald Jackson, is on the board of E3.
The five proposals submitted by the minister’s council were approved. [emphasis mine]
That was back in January of 2011. Later that summer, Bradford took a new job at the hedge-fund moneyed, reformy lobbying shop B4K. His new deputy director? Shelley Skinner.

Did Skinner review the Black Ministers Council's applications? The article doesn't say.

The article does mention, however, that some of the other candidates were not happy with the way their applications were treated:
Arthur Nunnally of Newark, whose Newark Horizon Charter School proposed linking academics and an "entrepreneurial" curriculum for elementary school children, questioned why his proposal was turned down, when all five from the Black Ministers Council were approved.
"I don’t get it. I’m not going to claim there was politics involved here ... but that to me raises questions," said Nunnally.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman ( D-Mercer) issued a statement Wednesday applauding Christie’s attention to education but asking why no new charters were approved in Trenton.
Another charter school applicant, Vashti Johnson of the proposed Bright Minds Charter High School in Jersey City, asked why nine schools were approved in Newark, but only two in Hudson County.
She also said she received no formal denial notice.
"I’m not politically connected. I’m just a group of parents and life-long residents in the community. Maybe we don’t get the same focus and consideration that more highly political people do," she said. [emphasis mine]
Why was the BMC was so successful when others were not? Because they certainly were, and Rev. Jackson was happy to claim the credit; in fact, right afterward, in March 2011, the BMC sponsored a workshop on getting charters approved for other ministers around the state as part of their conference on education:
Conference Schedule
Wednesday, March 2nd
(Focus on Education)  
8AM Registration
9AM Opening Plenary

9:15AM The Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Presiding
Executive Director, BMC

Keynote Breakfast
The Honorable Chris Christie
Governor, State of New Jersey

10:30AM Panel, “Public School Reform: What, How When?”
Ms. Jeannine LaRue, Larue List, Group, Moderator
Sen. Teresa Ruiz, Chair, Senate Education Committee
Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Chair, Assembly Education Committee
Dr. Joseph Youngblood, Thomas Edison University
Mr. Shavar Jeffries, Esquire, Chair, Newark Public Schools, Advisory Committee
Dr. Edythe Abdullah, President, Essex County Community College
Mr. Ronald C. Lee, Supt. Orange Public Schools

12Noon Luncheon
Mr. Chris Cerf, Acting Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Education

2PM Panel, “School Choice: Viable Alternative or Fraudulent Hope”
Dr. Therman Evans, MD., Pastor, Moderator
Mr. Derrell Bradford, Excellent Education for Everyone
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, Chair, Senate Economic Growth Committee
Mr. James Harris, President, New Jersey NAACP
Mr. Jerome Harris, President, New Jersey Black Issues Convention
Mr. Martin Perez, Esquire, President New Jersey Latino Alliance

Charter School Expansion Workshop
(churches that would like to start charter schools)

3:30PM Closing Plenary
4PM Closing Prayer and Adjournment

Wow, look at all those politicians! I guess it is fair to say the BMC is "politically connected" after all; how else do you get the governor himself to be your keynote speaker. And Derrell Bradford was there, along with ACTING Commissioner Cerf.

I leave you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusions.

One last thought: guess who else was sponsored by the BMC and eventually got an approval later in the fall?

Pastor Amir Khan. The man Chris Christie doesn't "know."

1 comment:

Deb said...

And yet when we fight for local control - the right for a community to vote on a charter school - we are told that process would be too susceptible to political influence and corruption. In the meantime charter schools that are created at the grass roots level are denied and political cronies get their charters left and right by the same people who tell us that a little competition in the education market would be a good thing?! Competition - is that their new euphemism for corruption and cronism? As some celebrate National Choice Week in education, please remember, we are actually not getting to make these choices. We have no say in these choices and for obvious reasons, the powers that be do not want to let us have a choice. I choose to think that stinks.