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New Report Questions New Jersey Charter School Review Process

WASHINGTON, DC (December 1, 2011) — The report, The Garden State’s Missed Opportunity, released today by The Center for Education Reform (CER) reveals new evidence of New Jersey’s flawed charter school authorization process. The findings make a strong case in support of the bi-partisan effort to reform the state’s charter school law to adopt best practice chartering through the creation of multiple authorizers, which allows other bodies besides the state to approve charters.

“For years we’ve heard from charter applicants in New Jersey that the system is flawed,” said Jeanne Allen, CER president. “But, this last round of reviews was extremely troubling, prodding us to dig deeper.”

Only four of the 58 charter school applications submitted this fall were approved. CER acquired and analyzed hundreds of pages of rejected applications, the corresponding denial letters and reviewer comments. The report details the lack of transparency in the application review process while uncovering severe bias and subjectivity applied by external reviewers and the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Charter Schools.

“Uncovering the truth was almost as arduous as applying for a charter in New Jersey,” said Alison Consoletti, vice president for research at CER and the report’s lead author. “Given the heightened media scrutiny and the hostile charter environment, denied applicants were reticent to share their rejected applications. We went to great lengths to honor their anonymity, so as not to compromise future applications.”

New Jersey’s charter school law earned a ‘C’ grade and ranks 19th out of the nation’s 41 laws. Only three percent of New Jersey’s public schools are charters and more than 20,000 students are currently on waiting lists for these innovative public schools.

Allen noted, “There is tremendous demand for more quality educational options in the Garden State. We’re hopeful that state lawmakers in Trenton will not lose sight of important legislation on the table this session that could significantly improve the state’s law. Creating multiple authorizers for charter schools is a sure fix to meet the increasing demand by families for better schools, provides a more objective process for vetting and holding charters accountable and, over time, will ultimately save taxpayers significant dollars.”

Download the full report The Garden State’s Missed Opportunity

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