Newark Superintendent Continues To Battle Charter Schools: Next Step, Take Back a Building Sold to KIPP

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Newark Superintendent Roger León is ratcheting up his war on the city’s charter schools, which are responsible for Newark’s standing as the best-performing urban school district in the country. 

Two weeks ago he announced a change to the universal school enrollment plan. While parents who enroll their children in traditional district schools just check off a box, parents who enroll their children in public charters — which currently educate about 35% of Newark students — have to download three different documents to prove residency. As Harry Lee of the NJ Public Charter School Association says, this is a violation of state regulations: “proofs of residency,”  he explains here, “can only be required after a lottery has been run and students have been matched.”

Yet León is not letting details like this stand in his way. In his latest salvo, he announced the school board was suing KIPP in order to reverse the sale of district building he sold to the charter management operator one year ago.

From Chalkbeat: “As the district is increasing, we need school buildings,” León said early last year, several weeks before the board filed its lawsuit. “And, obviously, that’s going to require some of those buildings that we sold to be unsold.” Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall reports that León “is intent on halting the spread of charter schools.”

KIPP, which has 11 schools in Newark and enrolls 5,200 students, is preparing to move Seek Academy from rented space in a district building to the South Ward property it purchased last year. 

KIPP spokeswoman Jessica Shearer explained, “The building, which has been empty for a very long time, went through a massive restoration and abatement process to ready it to host students once again, and celebrate the history and vibrancy of the South Ward.”

Now that process is in question, although KIPP’s legal team seems confident that Leon’s plan won’t stand up in court.

Also from Chalkbeat: 

Rayvn Thomas, whose daughter attends Carver [a South Ward district school], said that after watching the building sit vacant for years, she is ready for it to come back to life.

“When you live in the neighborhood, you don’t want to see abandoned buildings,” she said, adding that she was open to it housing a traditional or a charter school. “If it’s going to benefit the community, that’s the main goal.

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