N.J.’s Share of Charter Schools: 1.3%

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Del Stover at American School Board Journal takes a measured look at “the evolution of school choice” across the U.S., specifically how some states that have historically opposed charter schools are adjusting to the Obama Administration’s pro-charter agenda. He raises concerns about charter schools “creaming” off the top-performing kids, about whether school choice is “sound educational policy,” about whether there’s too much “public money in private hands.”

Stover concludes that the charter school movement, which now serves 1.5 million students in 40 states with 4,900 charter schools, is likely to perpetuate a system of have and have-nots because kids with “engaged parents and affluent backgrounds” will desert the traditional public system and less privileged kids will be trapped in ever more lower performing schools.

Here in Jersey our poor kids are already trapped in the most segregated public school system in the nation with dramatic swings in academic rigor and opportunity between our have and have-nots districts. Charter school detractors use Stover’s arguments; N.J. charter school proponents point out that marketplace competition is healthy all around, that it’s time to concede defeat for some of our chronically failing districts, and that a kid in a public school in Camden deserves at least a piece of what is afforded to a kid in a public school in Short Hills.

Corzine’s DOE is putting its money on reforms like High School Redesign and curricular standardization. On paper, if you replicate curricula and requirements across the state then student achievement gets replicated too. We already know this doesn’t work. (Just ask a kid in Camden and a kid in Short Hills.) There’s lip service paid to charter school expansion (newly-proposed DOE regs shorten the approval time period from 18 months to 11 months; one wag twits that the DOE now gets to reject proposals 7 months sooner), but we still don’t fund charters at the same level as traditional public schools or offer aid for facilities. In the meantime we’ve got a whopping 68 charters in this densely populated state with 11,000 kids on waiting lists.

Look at it this way: if we go by Stover’s national statistics, N.J. contains 1.3% of the charter schools in the country and 1.4% of the charter school students. Do those numbers seem scant to anyone else?

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