Newark fights proposal to pause charter school growth

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on May 14, 2015

Kindergarteners take part in a summer program at Spark Academy, one of Newark's TEAM charter schools.

 

NEWARK — A proposed bill that would temporarily limit the growth of charter schools in New Jersey would hurt urban youth in the state, according to a new resolution passed by the Newark city council this week.

"This would directly impact Newark families," said city Councilman Anibal Ramos, who sponsored the resolution denouncing the proposal.

"As representatives of the state's largest city, a city that's in transition...I think (passing this resolution) is a very important statement."

The bill, A4351, proposes placing a three-year moratorium on increases in charter school enrollments starting next school year. If passed, it would disallow the Commissioner of Education from approving any increase in the number of student spaces available in charter schools across the state.

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex and Morris), who proposed the bill, said in a statement to NJ Advance Media that she supports charter schools, but thinks that the state needs the time to reconsider how they are run.

"The charter school law needs to be rewritten in a thoughtful, comprehensive way," she said.

"It's been more than 20 years since the law was passed...I support the concept of charter schools and have visited many outstanding ones. We need to revise the law...I want to see the hat trick of a new charter school law that addresses funding, authorizing and local control."

But, charter school administrators and parents in Newark have joined local elected officials in the fight against the legislative pause.

"I hope (the Assembly) will listen to people whose lives and children would be impacted by this," Newark KIPP Charter School CEO Ryan Hill said in an interview about the proposed bill.

"A lot of charter schools are like ours, they grow one grade level at a time. If this passes, we'll have about 2,300 kids without a school to go to next year."

Newark Charter School Fund CEO Mashea Ashton said in a statement that the bill would limit quality education choices available to city residents.

"All children deserve equal access to a great education, and Newark's public charter schools provide (that to) students across the city, no matter their race, background or special needs," Ashton said.

The bill is not yet scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Education Committee, an Assembly spokesman said.

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