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

Saturday, April 6, 2013

NJ Charter School Circus: The Next Act

And here we go again:
With interest hardly abating, nearly 40 applications were filed this week to open new charter schools in New Jersey – a vast majority in cities and one with a notable political name in its title.
The state had received by Monday’s deadline for the latest round of charter bids, all for schools seeking to open in the fall of 2014.
The decisions on initial approvals for this round of applicants will come in September, with the final approvals in the summer of 2014. After an initial big push, the Christie administration has been stingy in its charter-school approvals of late, endorsing only two in each of the last two rounds. [emphasis mine]
Let's see how many move ahead this time - especially considering who is applying. As Darcie Cimarusti points out, there are already two absurd applications in this round. The first is from a convicted felon who spent a year in federal prison. No, seriously:
A former Washington Township mayor who went to prison for federal crimes is among 38 applicants seeking to run a charter school in South Jersey.
Jerry Luongo is seeking approval for Creative Visions Charter School, which would initially serve about 140 students in grades 9 through 12.
The proposed high school would cover nine Gloucester County communities, including Washington Township, Deptford, Mantua, Pitman and Glassboro. The service area also would extend to East Greenwich, Harrison, Wenonah and West Deptford.

And the other? Well, let Darcie tell it:
But Luongo's story may pale in comparison to an application submitted in Paterson. Remember the now infamous Paterson Town Hall where Governor Christie referred to Speaker Sheila Oliveras the "African-American female speaker of the Assembly?" It was the same Town Hall where Christie responded to an African American man who interrupted him by shouting, "Yeah, I hear ya, boy!"

But did you see THIS picture from the Paterson Town Hall?

That's Pastor Michael McDuffie. Much like Pastor Amir Khan at the Voorhees Town Hall, McDuffie was sitting right behind Governor Christie at the Paterson Town Hall; one of only seven to make it onto the dais.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

Yup, McDuffie just applied for a charter school.  

It's not just me right, this name makes NO sense at all...

What experience does McDuffie have that qualifies him to receive millions of our tax dollars to run a charter school?  His Facebook page, which is open to the public, raises some interesting concerns about what may be taught should he be given the green light to open a school.
Click through to read all about McDuffie's educational philosophy, which includes a course that manages to bring together such topics as Lucifer, 50 Cent, the Daniels Diet (?), and Seal Team 7.

As I have wondered before: what compels men of the cloth to want to start secular charter schools; schools that must, by law, not proselytize? Why would anyone who has devoted his life to religious teachings want to turn his back on them to start a government funded school?

Maybe it's ego - something that never seems to be in short supply around the charter industry:
Maybe the most recognizable bid is for the Raymond Lesniak ESH Recovery Charter High School in Union County, named after the county’s powerful Democratic state senator.
Contacted yesterday, Lesniak said he’s not behind the proposal for the school proposed in his native Elizabeth, but said he had been approached by leaders of the Roselle-based human services organization Prevention Links to get involved.
Under the proposal, the school would serve up to 125 high school students with substance-abuse problems, offering a regular curriculum but also providing recovery programs and monitoring. And given his work as a state senator with treatment and recovery issues, Lesniak said the group asked him if his moniker could be on the school.
“I had been supporting them through the process, and they said their polled their founding members and felt that it should be the Raymond Lesniak Recovery Charter High School,” Lesniak said.
“I have never wanted anything named after me, but I saw this as a living organism, a growing thing, one of the reasons I stay in public life,” he said.
Don't you love how politicians can talk and talk and say absolutely nothing at all?

The sad thing is that this is may actually be a really good idea: getting kids who have addictions help in a school setting is definitely worth a try. But why does it have to be a charter school? Why not run it through a multi-district cooperative? Why put it under a governance structure that restricts the rights of its students, its parents, and its staff?

And why are the sending districts of the more dubious charters now held hostage in their budgeting and planning by these wacky applicants - people who have no business running a school financed with public monies? Luongo's proposed high school would draw from nine sending districts, putting their own programs in jeopardy, including the arts. Has anyone shown that the arts offerings in these communities are so lacking that Luongo's school should be approved (even if he wasn't a convicted criminal)?

Local districts should not be subject to the whims of the NJDOE and whomever they've decided to let approve charters this time around. All charter school proposals in New Jersey should first have to gain local approval. Prove to the citizens that you want to serve that you can provide them with educational options they need; then you can go to the state for final approval.

Why is this so hard to understand?

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