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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Massive Charter Malfeasance, Jersey Style

In case you still wonder why so many people in New Jersey have so many doubts about charter schools, here's one more reason, courtesy of the Star-Ledger:
Nearly 200 school board members must "immediately vacate their position" after failing to complete a background check mandated under a new state law, a state Department of Education spokesman said today .

Under the state law enacted last year, the only one of its kind in the nation, all school board members, including charter school trustees had to complete the "criminal history review" by Dec. 31.

Officials from the state and the New Jersey School Boards Association sent numerous reminders to board members from regular district schools and charter schools to complete the check, but at least 186 officials, including one member who holds two positions, didn't comply. School board members were notified via phone calls, e-mails and formal letters since the law was signed last spring.

"Because they have failed to comply with the background check law, they have been notified that they are ineligible to serve and must immediately vacate their position," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Allison Kobus. [emphasis mine]
Here's what the Star-Ledger failed to emphasize: of those 186 officials, 95 serve on charter school boards. That's right: over half of the New Jersey school officials removed from their positions today for violating the law are on charter school boards.

Who are these upright citizens?
Rev. Reginald Jackson said he was unaware that the entire board of Arete Academy Charter school, including himself, would be vacated. According to his dealings with the Department of Education, the background check was a two-phase process, the first of which he and his colleagues completed on time. 
"As far as I'm concerned, I spoke with the department. We were told we had to have something done by December 31, which all of us complied with," said Jackson who, as board chairman of Orange's fledgling charter school, would have been responsible for ensuring compliance with the state mandate. "All of us now have to get our fingerprinting done." [emphasis mine]
This would be the same Reginald Jackson who is a staunch supporter of school vouchers. I guess he likes private schools better because the officials there don't have to follow so many of those pesky laws...

Between this, ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf's broken promise to release data about charters, and the double-secret charter panels, I'd say enough's enough. Why should parents and local school boards put up with these unaccountable, secretive, poorly-run schools in their communities if they don't want them?

It is time to put a moratorium on all new charter schools until the Cerf report is released and a comprehensive review of all current charter schools is conducted. 

Who's with me?

ADDING: To give you a little perspective:

Total Number of School Districts 2011-12603
Total Number of Charter Schools 2011-1275

If you count every charter as its own "district," charters have 11% of the school boards in New Jersey. But 51% of the officials dismissed today are on charter school boards.

What astonishing incompetence.

ADDING MORE: Leave a comment here, then go over to New Jersey Teachers United Against Governor Chris Christie on Facebook and comment there.


Mother Crusader said...

I'm no mathematician, but since only 3% of NJ Public Schools are charters, but over 50% of the school board members in the entire state that failed to comply were from charters, the percentage of charter school board members that bothered to actually comply must be miniscule.

Arrogance? Incompetence? Why did so many of them blow it off?

You know I am with you. All the way.

Anonymous said...

Am curious to find out what the background checks would reveal..hum...

Mother Crusader said...

Oh, and
let's not forget the other reason many may not have complied. They have something to hide...

Duke said...

Just added something about that, Darcie. If a charter is its own "district," charters are 11% of the districts in NJ. Yet 51% of the officials dismissed today serve on charter boards.

It's outrageous. These people can't even get their background checks together, but they want money with no strings attached from local school boards.

Anonymous said...

I want to know, who doesn't know that you have to be finger printed to be part of a school system. Hell, even parents who want to volunteer have to have them, and they know it. We have been following this for well over a year!

Duke said...

Anon, it is ridiculous. If you want to run your own school, you'd better at least have someone on board who knows the rules and sets up things like this.

It is a poor reflection on any charter that had multiple officials on this list.

Anonymous said...

Jazzman, you have a story when somebody is found to have a criminal record. This story speaks to the adminstrators, clerks and counsel of whatever board had members involved. Charter schools don't have a bunch of patronage lifers hovering around on the dole dotting every regulatory t and i. That is why they aren't collapsing like the urban schools!

You find a criminal, you have a story. Otherwise, this is paperwork by a bunch of schools with the kids in mind, not the bureaucracy.

Duke said...


So charter schools are awesome because they break the law?

That your theory? Really?

Mother Crusader said...

From the DOE website:



Are School Board members (elected or appointed) required to submit to the Criminal History Record Check?

Effective May 26, 2011, N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1.2 et seq. mandates that all School Board members and members of a Board of Trustees for charter schools submit to the Criminal History Record Check.


So, they have had ALL SUMMER AND FALL to get their houses in order...

Anonymous, this quote from you is fascinating:

"Charter schools don't have a bunch of patronage lifers hovering around on the dole dotting every regulatory t and i. That is why they aren't collapsing like the urban schools!"

If I am reading this correctly the state ensuring that criminals are not running schools is an example of "dotting every regulatory t and i," and charter trustees failing to comply proves that charters have "kids in mind" more than traditional public schools? If they have kids in mind, why wouldn't they take the opportunity to demonstrate to the public that their boards are, well, above board?

Your quote further implies that charters are "successful" because they are above the law, and urban schools "fail" because they follow it.

THAT is some interesting logic right there.

Anonymous said...

I try to keep an open mind when I read criticsm of charter schools, but I know many NJEA members who teach in them (I believe about 20 of charter school teachers are NJEA members), and find them fantastic and a much needed solution in some areas.

So when I see the sort of nastiness that you see on here, I wonder -- are the authors financially motivated? Are you all NJEA members just looking to puff up your unions income and power and monopoly? If charters were 100 percent unionized would Jazzman (secret NJEA member?) care anymore about these minor issues which have literally nothing to do with kid's education?

Duke said...

Anon, if you actually read the blog, you'd know I was an admitted NJEA member.

And if you'd read the blog, you'd know I have documented in painstaking detail the issues I have with charters.

You'd also know I started my career in a charter and have no problem with them if they meet their original mandate.

Read my stuff before you try to make a character sketch, please.

Anonymous said...

Duke, I'd be interested to see what charters you list as meeting their original mandate and which don't? Since your criticsm is so sharply delineated on that issue, why not list them so we can see the good guys and the bad guys?

stop the freeze NJ said...

Anonymous - let's stick to the issue at hand. Does it or does it not raise a red flag that over half the list of individuals who failed to satisfy the requirement represent such a disproportionately large part of this list? Do you content that there is absolutely nothing telling, nothing of note here?

Anonymous said...

I am sticking to my issue at hand -- what charters does Duke like and which doesn't he, and which was he associated with as an ex-employee. You can pursue your own issues at hand with Duke, they seem to be exploding expontentially.

stop the freeze NJ said...

You most certainly are not. You are trying to play a game of rhetorical "gotcha," and not doing a very good job. Again, do you or do you not find it unusual and alarming that while only constituting 3% of NJ schools, charters accounted for over 50% of those failing to meet their legal obligation to background check their board members and trustees?

Simple question. Is this a red flag or not? You can drone on and plant your poorly concealed landmines, but I think you'll find that the conversation has moved well past distractions like your hearsay, casting of fictional (straight up made up) aspersions and such. Yawn.

Duke said...

Anon: I told you I never worked at any of the charters on this list; that's all I care to share.

This is a free blog and I rarely remove comments - even ones that question my motives. Feel free to keep coming back and keep my site meter spinning; maybe I'll finally get a check from the Google ad people someday.

But don't expect me to drop everything and answer you any time you chose to question my motives. If I feel like writing about these schools, I will; If I don't, I won't. My choice, and your choice to decide if that ruins my credibility.

I understand that there are those who do not like that I write under a pseudonym. That's fine; again, unlike others, I rarely remove comments, and you are free to post your grievances here, so long as you don't abuse the privilege (ie, don't spam, don't call me a racist, etc.).

But don't expect me to continue to engage you. I find all this tiresome and a poor substitute for substantive debate. You made your point; we can both trust the readers here to judge whether you have a case or not. For me, it's rather obvious.

A last piece of advice: i started this blog because I was frustrated with the limitations of posting comments on others' sites. If you feel strongly about these issues, I would suggest you do the same. It's very easy; the setup will take you maybe 10 minutes. You can leave your URL in my comments any time you'd like (within reason) as long as your blog meets some basic, obvious standards of decency, which I'm sure it will.

Good luck.