Murphy Administration Denies Expansion for Two Newark Charter Schools

North Star Academy took issue with the DOE’s characterization of its enrollment, stating that it grows in a responsible, methodical way in order to ensure continued strong academic results for children.
 
The commissioner also cited a letter received from Newark Superintendent Roger Leon requesting the state turn down the request, though she did not include the fact that she also received letters in support of the expansion from several Newark elected officials. 

“We are deeply disappointed by the Department of Education’s denial of our seat request, within the same letter where it acknowledges us as a ‘high performing’ school in every aspect: academically, fiscally and organizationally,” North Star spokeswoman Barbara Martinez said. “A denial for a second year in a row is an affront to Newark families sitting on our waiting list year after year.”
 
In her letter to the school, Allen-McMillan described North Star as a Tier 1 program, considered “high performing” based on academic performance of its students for the last three years in which data was available. 

North Star educates more than 6,600 K-12 predominantly low-income Black and brown students in Newark. It is considered among the highest-performing charter schools in the nation by a variety of measures. Nearly all graduates of its high school are accepted to college and graduate from college at almost the same rate as the highest income quartile in the U.S.

The denial letter from the Department of Education came one day after Gov. Phil Murphy was asked about his record on charter schools at a press conference announcing the lifting of the mask mandate in schools. 

Saying that the administration supports high performing charter schools, he rejected criticism that his alliance with the teachers’ union is leading to bad charter school calls. The Murphy administration has denied more than two thirds of the applications by charters filed during his first term.

“We’re not into labels,” Murphy said. “If it’s a high-quality top performing school, regardless of what school it is, and we’re getting our kids educated…we’ve never, ever, ever been, ‘Hell no to charters.' We just don’t get … We’re not in the middle of that. We call these things as we see them. For the life of me I don’t get it.”
 
North Star’s request for an additional 311 seats is significantly scaled back from its request last year, when it had asked the DOE to allow it to expand by more than 1,200 seats as part of it’s five year renewal.
 
Last week, the DOE also denied a request from Phillips Academy, another high-performing Tier 1 charter, to add a high school to its K-8 program. In that case, the Department took away previously approved ninth-grade seats, plunging an entire group of eighth graders into a search for a public high school in Newark one week before the enrollment process closes.
  
The New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association called on the Murphy administration to reverse its decision denying the expansion to top-performing schools like North Star and Phillips Academy.
 
“We appreciate and agree with the governor’s commitment to supporting high performing public schools of all types. Excellent public charter schools strengthen New Jersey's public-school system,” NJPCSA President Harry Lee said.
 
“Unfortunately, the Commissioner of Education’s decisions do not align with this goal based on a comprehensive performance-based review,” Lee said. “The decisions by DOE are deeply harmful to our most vulnerable communities and must be reversed to ensure students can stay in the schools where they are excelling academically and feel supported by their teachers and friends.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-02-09 02:59:10 -0800