TRENTON, NJ—In response to the ongoing debate on proposed charter school regulation changes and subsequent calls for a moratorium on charter expansion at the State Board of Education meeting today, several education advocacy organizations and charter school parents offered the following statements:
Janellen Duffy, executive director of JerseyCAN: The New Jersey Campaign for Achievement Now, stated:
“Charter school expansion, particularly in urban areas, has been in direct response to parent demand for high quality, tuition-free public schools. Unfortunately charter critics have left these children and families out of the conversation today. To ignore them is to do a disservice to families who have chosen charter schools for their children and the estimated 20,000 students on waiting lists statewide. Charters are not the reason why districts are facing funding gaps. In addition to several years of flat funding, there are political and policy barriers that prevent districts from making cuts and right sizing when students leave district settings to attend charter schools. We should all be working together to fight for equitable school funding for all of our public school children, not pitting them against one another.”
Muhammed Akil, Parent Coalition for Excellent Education (PC2E) Executive Director added:
“Today’s so-called protest held by supporters of the troubled educational status quo was yet another example critics from predominantly suburban communities with excellent educational options for their children trying to limit high quality choices for parents in urban communities whose districts have too often failed to provide them adequate options. If we truly care about children not being tracked in to a permanent underclass we would be working together instead of pitting families against one another. If all children are our priority there is no need to make this an ‘us versus them’ debate. PC2E and thousands of parents throughout the New Jersey are willing to roll-up their sleeves, work together with those who want to solve the critical issues facing our public school system, including making sure all schools have the funding they need to educate ALL children.”
Lunedar Girault, a Newark public charter school parent, said:
“I challenge opponents of public charter schools to come to my city and see firsthand how limiting my choices as a parent impacts my children. My children should not be reduced to a statistic or budget line item. They are as deserving as those in more affluent communities to receive an education that prepares them for college and the bright future that awaits them.”
Altorice Frazier, KIPP NJ parent, board member, and Newark education activist stated:
“Public charter schools have been a lifeline to children in Newark and are putting our students on the road to and through college. I urge the State Board to support the proposal to grant my children’s schools the flexibility they need to continue this life-changing work.”
Crystal Wortham, a mother of four Uncommon Schools – North Star Academy students, including one with special needs, said:
“I don’t tell people in the suburbs where to send their children to school, so I don’t understand why these special interest groups don’t want me to have the same choices. Families in Newark are desperate for high quality schools to grow and they are showing it by the thousands. Why is it that a small group of people in New Jersey are so loudly opposed to that?”
Michele Mason, Executive Director of Newark Charter School Fund commented:
“Families across Newark are demanding the highest quality school options for their children at both traditional public and public charter schools across the city and they deserve nothing less. Newark public charter schools currently educate about one-third of the city’s public school children and are consistently selected as the top choice by parents in the Newark enrollment system. When we look at the facts, Newark public charter schools are successfully educating historically underserved student populations – over 80 percent of Newark public charter school students are African American and over 80 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The new public charter school regulations being discussed in Trenton today will not only expand high quality educational options for our students and families, but will allow public charter schools to continue to innovate and positively transform our education system to the benefit of all students. Expanding access to high quality school options is one of the most critical issues as we prepare children to succeed in the 21st century economy, and in Newark, high quality public charter schools are delivering excellent educational options to meet the needs of students and families, serving as a critical component of the Newark educational landscape.”
Paula White, NJ State Director for Democrats for Education Reform, added:
“Democrats for Education Reform understands that the fight for high-quality public school choice is a crucial part of a larger, comprehensive effort to champion ALL of America’s public school children, irrespective of their background or circumstance. Families deserve a public charter school environment that prioritizes children’s success and proposed regulatory changes at the state level that reflect this priority. Ongoing repetition of misinformation and half-truths by adult-focused special-interest groups does not alter the facts — great public schools change lives. We see evidence of this in places like Newark, New Jersey, where the city’s public charter schools make up the 2nd highest-performing public charter school sector in the country, successfully preparing children of all backgrounds for college and careers. It would be unconscionable not to support these and other great public schools — both public charter and traditional district schools — that serve as gateways to more children achieving the American dream. We will continue to respect and support parents who choose public charter schools for their children, while also continuing to support a regulatory environment that provides robust safeguards and standards to ensure a high-quality education for children in these settings. This is our charge; our children deserve nothing less.”
Amanda Vega-Malinowski, Director of Communications and Marketing of the NJ Charter Schools Association concluded:
“Today’s SBOE hearing turnout begs two essential questions: What stake do those who oppose charter schools have in their opposition? Would any parent, if given the choice, leave their child to attend a school that does not serve their needs?
“Families self-select to attend public charter schools. If a parent wants to have their child attend a charter school, they enroll or apply to the lottery. That is self-selection. Public charters do not operate like selective public schools, i.e.: magnet schools, and do not require aptitude or other screening exams for entrance.
“Second, it is important to look at charters much in the same way we look at districts: as parts of a whole that cannot be isolated. For instance, the argument being made is that a charter school, which serves 200-500 students does not look like a district serving over 7,000 students. And in some cases, that is true, but if you look at any of the individual schools in the district and compare them to the larger district number, you will find that they too do not look just like the district. Keep in mind, neither of these examinations take into account the number of school-aged students attending private schools. Case in point, in Franklin Twp, the district serves 7.8% ELL as a whole. However, if you look at individual schools, Conerly Road School serves an ELL population of 1.9%, whereas Sampson G Smith School serves 35.7% ELL students. This is a tremendous disparity within a district that is consistently overlooked.
“At the end of the day, one fact remains clear: New Jersey’s public charter schools serve every child and do so while achieving strong academic outcomes for students. The proposed regulations do not undermine this ultimate goal of serving students. Rather, the proposed regulations support the charter community’s shared efforts to ensure that high-quality opportunities remain an available and viable option for every student in NJ’s urban centers. Furthermore, the proposed regulations ensure that high-stakes accountability and transparency are central to the operation of NJ’s public charter schools. As long as parents continue to select high-quality educational alternatives to their mandated district schools, New Jersey’s public charter schools will continue to be in high demand.”
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