GA's been forwarded correspondence from sources at Save our Schools (SOS), a grassroots, all-volunteer organization of parents that believe "all children should have access to high-quality public education."
I'd like to give you a heads-up on what I've been hearing.
Here is what SOS has advised:
On June 6th, 2012, the NJDOE will be voting on proposed amendments to pending legislation to change charter regulations in New Jersey. This will be the second reading and final vote.
Technically, the amended legislation would have to pass the NJ Senate and Assembly before being enacted, but SOS believes that once the NJDOE votes to pass the amendments they will forge ahead with implementation.
Which is why they are trying to raise awareness about what's underway in Trenton now.
In a nutshell, SOS warns that the new regulations will give the Education Commissioner almost unlimited power over NJ Charter schools. If the amendments pass, Commissioner Cerf can:
• change the curriculum/goals, geography, grade levels and management of existing charter schoolsDo you see where this is going?
• Close existing charter schools with no justification.
• Use out of state charter management organizations (CMOs) or education management organizations (EMOs)for hostile takeovers of existing charter schools.
• Allow virtual charter schools to open and draw on any geography in the State. (Virtual schools are illegal under the NJ charter law.)
• approve new charter school with no community/local school board input whatsoever.
If approved, these changes can make way for hostile takeover of charters, sweeping out their administrators, staff and teachers, and bringing in for-profit management entities, which normally take a 10% cut from the charter school budget. The state can change the charter (such as class size) in order to squeeze extra-profit for designated management entities.
Here is what a source at SOS said about the State's plans for 'virtual charters'.
Five virtual charter schools are scheduled to open in September in NJ; one would be purely virtual and draw state-wide. It’s a shell for K12, the cyber-scam company that has doubled its revenue in the last year to more than $500 Million, all driven by tax dollars. There is not one example of virtual charters working elsewhere in US. Philly has 9 virtual charter schools not one is at level of traditional public schools.In further detail, here are notes from SOS with respect to the proposed changes to charter regulations and what they mean.
The Department of Education has proposed amendments to the current charter school regulations. According to the Department, the amendments are designed to increase quality instruction, improve academic achievement of students, and increase the availability of high quality education choices for New Jersey students. What the proposed changes actually accomplish is to continue to expand the Commissioner’s powers to not only approve charters, but also to close them, expand them and replicate them.
GA, a public school parent and friend to our present Charter community, finds the potential of such changes horrific; in effect, empowering the state to turn our schools into for-profit education mills.1. The definition of “eligible applicant” has been changed which will expand the pool of applicants. Currently an eligible applicant has to be a resident of the district where the charter school is being proposed. The proposed change allows a teacher or parent to apply for a charter anywhere in the State which will eliminate the requirement that an applicant has a connection with the local school district.2. The definition of “contiguous district” has been removed and the definition of “region of residence” has been expanded. The proposed changes taken together will allow virtual charters to pull students from the entire State.3. The definition “satellite campus” was added. The change will allow the Commissioner the authority to open charter schools at a satellite campus in any of the 31 former Abbott districts or any district with a priority school, with no application process and no input from the affected district’s residents or board of education.4. The definition of “Planning Year” has been added. Its inclusion will allow the Commissioner to give an approved charter school a planning year even though a final charter has not been received. It will give an additional year for the charter school to meet the criteria necessary for opening the school. Funds from the affected district will be withheld even though the charter school may never open.5. The Commissioner will be able to amend a charter for expanding enrollment, expanding grade levels, changing or adding a district or region of residence. None of these changes require district approval or notification. A charter will be allowed to amend the mission, goals and objectives of a charter school without having to resubmit a revised application.6. The Commissioner will have extended authority to renew or revoke a charter. The Commissioner can:a. determine the terms for a conditional renewal of a charter,b. grant a restructured renewal of a school that is at risk of losing its charterc. revoke the charter if the remedial plan is deemed to be insufficient7. The application process will be a two phase process. An applicant deemed to be a qualified applicant based on the phase one application, will have 30 days to submit the phase two application.An expedited action cycle will replace the current early action cycle. The decision date for the expedited action cycle has been extended by one month to February 15th which will allow for a longer review period.
Only charter founders with demonstrable experience operating an education institution will be permitted to apply for the expedited action cycle. No description of how the experience will be measured was included in the proposed changes.
I hope that all those concerned will get up-to-speed on what happening at the NJDOE and how that may end up on our doorstep.
Please contact Save our Schools for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org