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15th District Legislators Cite Latest Example in Trenton as Cautionary Tale

Fifteenth district legislators – Senator Shirley Turner, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman – today questioned the wisdom of the Christie administration in pushing for increased charter schools in the absence of more rigorous standards to help prevent the type of misdeeds that have led to today’s announcement of the closure of Capital Preparatory Charter High School in Trenton.

The lawmakers currently have a number of bills pending that would create more rigorous standards for the establishment and monitoring of charter schools.

Turner has sponsored measures that would require charter schools to appoint a certified business administrator (S1475), a qualification that Capital Preparatory’s B.A. did not hold, and another (S434) that would require the Department of Education to conduct site visits at least every other month during a charter school’s initial year of operation, a move that could have prevented many of the problems at Capital Preparatory. Watson Coleman also recently introduced a measure (A4207) requiring independent evaluations of the state’s charter schools and Gusciora has sponsored another (A3454) that would only allow charter schools to be established in certain school districts and prohibit further payments to a charter school in the event of closure.

“The situation unfolding in Trenton is an unfortunate example of the turmoil that is created when public schools must unexpectedly absorb the children from charter schools, especially at a time when their budgets are being slashed,” said Turner (D-Mercer). “This scenario should serve as a warning and a cautionary tale for the Christie administration as they continue to denigrate New Jersey’s public school system to justify the proliferation of charter schools. We need to move forward with many of these bills to ensure that there’s a better system in place to monitor and improve performance so that we have no failing schools.”

“With applications for charter schools increasing across the state, combined with the situation we are witnessing in Trenton, the Department of Education needs to take a step back and examine whether students are performing better at charter schools. In Trenton, most of the charter schools are performing below the state average and only a few have outperformed the district schools in specific grades and subjects,” said Gusciora. (D-Mercer) “Additionally, we need to know how these schools affect the taxpayers, especially in circumstances like Capital Prep.”

“The heavy reliance on charter schools, without the necessary oversight and application review in place, poses a number of significant risks,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “With the pending closure of Capital Prep, there are many questions that now arise. Where will these students go to school? How will the receiving public school district pay for any returning charter school students? These questions and many more need to be answered by this administration that is determined to make charter schools the solution to any problems plaguing our public schools.”