Amendments to charter school regulations still regressive

The NJ State Board of Education recently released some amendments to their proposed changes to the charter school regulations. While NJEA appreciates the attempt to address at least a few of the concerns with the proposed regulations, they remain regressive and harmful, and would be detrimental to New Jersey’s successful education system, built on accountable, high achieving public schools.

The proposed charter school regulations represent a politicized bargaining chip, pushed through discussions and hearings without the due consideration that the hearings warrant, leveraged as currency with lobbyists. It is clear that the governor and his appointees are selling New Jersey’s education system, including its dedicated public school employees, parents, taxpayers, and most importantly, students to the highest bidder. In fact, in the opening summary of the memo regarding the proposed changes, it very clearly states that Governor Christie met with state and national charter school operators and that these changes reflect their ideas.

During testimony before the State Board of Education, NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer thanked the Board for, “recognizing the substantial deficiencies with the original proposed charter school regulations and making an effort, in part, to rectify them. While I appreciate the direction, the proposed amendments do not go nearly far enough to alleviate NJEA’s concerns.” Secretary-Treasurer Sean Spiller also testified, explaining that the proposed changes in the regulations “open the floodgates for unprepared and unqualified individuals to work in publicly funded schools… allowing charter school operators to substitute their judgment and economic interests instead of the students’ interests.”

Under the system created by the proposed changes, only for-profit or thinly-veiled “non-profit” operators create and expand charter schools from national chains. Those operators lobby to loosen rules and reduce their own accountability, watering down professional licensing standards, eviscerating fiscal accountability, opening public assets to private exploitation, and otherwise creating an unregulated, unaccountable, and mediocre subset of public schools. Our children deserve better than the lower standards, reduced funding, and second-rate education that these proposed changes represent.

NJEA vows to actively support proposals to ensure equitable funding for all public schools in the state and require that all public schools, including public charters, are held to the same standards of transparency and accountability. NJEA will actively oppose any regulatory proposal that weakens the investigative powers of agencies tasked with ensuring a thorough and efficient education for all New Jersey children.

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