State Takeover of Charters Underway?

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 schools

• 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.
Do you see where this is going?

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.  
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 charter
c.  revoke the charter if the remedial plan is deemed to be insufficient

7.      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. 
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.

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:


  1. FYI, K12 info here:

  2. Looks to me like the end goal is to destroy the public school system and to commoditize education in the state of NJ entirely. It really has nothing to do with the children's education; they'll just be pawns in the equation. It has to do with making bigger profits. I'll take a guess that (Hoboken's friend) Christie supports this legislation, no?

    1. Bingo, IndieCom.

      Sources at SaveOurSchools say the NJDOE is ready to proceed with implementation once amendments to charter legislation are approved by NJDOE vote- prior to the actual legislation passing. Then the public would have no recourse but to fight the state in court.

      Unless folks start screaming now.

  3. And do you think it is about education now? Corporations seeking profits and buying off politicians to take over the schools is no less corrupt than unions seeking to monopolize education & constantly seek to take more and more tax dollars for raises & bennies no matter how poorly their membership performs in exchange for buying off politicians. For profit corporations certainly aren't a suitable solution to fixing education but by at the same time, the current monopoly the unions have running schools isn't working either.

  4. Right, yes - of course; silly me. I forgot. Those horrible, evil unionized teachers. They must be crushed as they are clearly enemies to every upstanding American citizen. How dare they get salary raises and benefits. NOBODY should get a decent salary. And benefits! Absolutely NOT. Those filthy teachers. We must STOP them from robbing the taxpayers. (Wait! They're taxpayers! So, not only are they robbing US, they are robbing THEMselves.) US vs. THEM. Sounds like a plan!

  5. Nobody who isn't competent deserves a salary, pension, benefits and lifetime job protections. That is the problem w/ civil service unions and their contracts. There is absolutely no accountability and no reward or punishment for success or failure and they go out of their way to insure teachers are not held accountable when they fail. Once they have tenure, baring a felony it is just about impossible to remove a teacher who just plain stinks at teaching from a classroom. And until the unions realize that it is this structural flaw in their contracts that leads to people wanting to send their kids to schools where teachers are held accountable, charter schools and even for profit corporations will be seen as superior alternatives by many.

    And yes, it is us vs. them. It is people who want competent teachers in the classroom vs. union advocates who just don't care about competence at all. We know on what side of that fence you sit.

  6. Oh pleeze; who doesn't want competent teachers in the classroom (except corrupt politicians and/or corrupt union leaders) and I am neither. However, there are those of us that believe that teaching is an important role in society (more important than moving money around and, often into the pockets of corrupt banksters see: CDOs, ABS, CDS, etc) and believe that teachers should be well compensated for this important role. Are there issues with tenure? Absolutely. But, the thread is about sounding an alarm about the privatization of public schools, so I'm not going to be drawn into a discussion about workers' rights.

    1. Clearly the way the unions fight pay for performance and holding teachers accountable for results at every single turn, they don't want competence in the classroom. See the school systems of almost every city in America and how the unions have screamed every time the issue of accountability has been brought up. If those teachers really valued education, they'd want to be compensated for delivering results & not just for showing up for attendance. You just don't get it. The issue with tenure is tenure itself.

      BTW, you know that the one difference b/w privatization of schools & unionized teachers? This is the one difference that in my mind makes things like Charter schools and even privately run schools viable alternatives in the minds of people who believe in accountability. You can fire a company that sucks at running a school. Good luck firing a unionized teacher in a public school system.

    2. Red, I must correct your point about "firing a company that sucks at running a school". It looks like the way the NJ amendment is structured, that hiring and firing of an EMO is the sole discretion of the NJ Education Commissioner. And the amount of cash being spent by PACs and lobbyists makes the end users and general public almost irrelevant. These EMOs are a pure for-profit enterprise.

      Missouri just closed ALL Charters run by Imagine Schools, one of the biggest EMOs- leaving 3,500 kids without a school to attend in Sept. 2012! "Imagine" that!


      On average, children at Imagine perform worse academically than those in the city's school system, which has shown steady gains in the last three years.

      This is happening all over America.

      No good can come of turning our schools into for-profit education mills.

    3. GA, I've already said I don't want corporations running schools. I don't want taxpayer money lining the pockets of executives and investors any more than I want it lining the pockets of union officials & politicians through the tens of millions paid in union dues in this state. Money that isn't spent on actually educating kids is wasted IMO no matter where it goes and I just don't like waste. I don't like it if the wasted $ goes to investors, to executives, to union officials, to bad teachers or make work jobs. I just don't see corporate greed at the expense of kids any less evil than the greed exhibited by the unions at the expense of kids. A dollar of waste is just as wasteful no matter the source of the waste and I want to keep the waste to a minimum.

      But at the same time, I can also see how parents who want an alternative to the completely unaccountable public schools that are failing at educating their kids might want to send their children to schools where if the staff fails to do a good job, those poor performing staffers are replaced. People who work in the private sector tend to understand the concept of accountability and how being held accountable can be a motivating force. It seems that even teachers understand how accountability can motivate their students into doing their homework and studying for tests which is why they use things like report cards, grades, scores, smiley faces & so forth. They just don't want to themselves be held accountable.

      Well the voters and parents are starting to hold them accountable which is one reason why things like charter schools are so popular and the unions can either get on the bandwagon and either accept accountability for their own members or watch parents increasingly to abandon public schools in favor of more charter schools and perhaps even for profit schools.

      Personally I am indifferent as to who runs the schools so long as they are held accountable for their performance & the all-in cost to the taxpayers. For me what matters is results.

    4. Thanks, Red. All of my work experience is in the private sector, and I will tell you that federal/state legal protections make it difficult to fire crummy employees. I've seen it myself, got a few stories. That's the way it is.

      Most of our teachers are doing a great job. They often pay out-of-pocket for supplies and subsidize classroom activities. The school's job is education, not parenting but unfortunately many children have so many challenges at home that the schools are expected to do more than educate, and much of that falls on the teachers.

      But, all I was trying to point out was that contrary to your point, the public will not be able to fire EMOs. I think we are on the same page about them.

    5. It is my understanding that NJ charter schools have as difficult a time of firing teachers/employees as any other municipal/state or fed agency. As I understand it, they are granted similar rights as state employees-and get a pension, too.

      Also, due to the lower salaries, the charter school professional staff turnover is incredibly high- if I recall correctly, one of our charter schools has a 38% turnover rate.

      The unfortunate reality is that most charter schools do not educate the population of students it was intended to serve, does not do as well as their district schools when they do serve a similar demographic and overwhelmingly does not spend less than the district schools, which have tenured teachers with 30- 35 years experience/salaries.

    6. Just to clarify, this is meant for statewide/nationwide indicators.


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