The New Jersey Charter School Circus Has Left Town
Commissioner Cerf seems to have exited the circus tent this round and denied charters to Pastor Michael McDuffie
|Pastor Duffie prayers for our Governor|
Pastor McDuffie's connection to the Governor was reminiscent of the Regis Academy debacle. Kudos to the Commissioner for not repeating that mistake.
The three applications that got the green light from the Commissioner certainly seem to have a far different pedigree. From John Mooney at NJ Spotlight:
Seems the Commissioner and the Governor took great care to avoid the controversy involved with applications like McDuffie's and Luongo's, giving the nod only to ones that, at least on the surface, have deep, solid ties to New Jersey. Hard to complain about that.
- Great Futures Charter High School for the Health Sciences. The high school in Jersey City will focus on health sciences, including partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and the Jersey City Medical Center.
- The International Academy of Trenton Charter School. The elementary school, with 350 pupils, will serve both Trenton and Ewing students. The school will be managed by SABIS Education Systems, a private charter management organization which runs schools in Camden, Paterson and Jersey City.
- Trenton STEM-to-Civics Charter School. A high school also serving Trenton and Ewing students, it will focus on the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.The Trenton STEM-to-Civics charter is especially intriguing, as the school plans to have partnerships with institutions as varied as the Liberty Science Center and Princeton University. (emphasis mine)
And while the pace of charter growth may have slowed, there are still some serious concerns regarding the direction of the Commissioner's charter school program.
The Rise Of For-Profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs)
The charter in this batch that concerns me greatly is The International Academy of Trenton Charter School, which Mooney states will be managed by Sabis Education Systems.
The expansion of Sabis in New Jersey is deeply troubling. I wrote about Sabis as part of my five part series on the approval of the Paterson Collegiate Charter School.
Sabis has had trouble for years all over the country. There were clashes in the late 90's in Chicago, in Springfield in 2000, in 2002 in Cincinnati, and in Schenectady, NY in 2003 and Greensboro, NC in 2004. Most recently in 2011 Sabis ran into REALLY big trouble in Atlanta at the Peachtree Hope Charter School (PHCS). The list of complaints against Sabis is staggering.With this kind of track record, you wouldn't think Sabis would be at the top of the list of CMO's we'd want to expand in New Jersey.
Throughout June and July, in the process of exercising its oversight responsibility, the Board learned additional disturbing facts. Significantly, SABIS:A. failed to meet the targeted scores on the 2011 CRCT as promised to the State of Georgia;B. under-reported Title I students, resulting in a loss of federal funds in-excess of one million dollars;C. apparently hired a Director for the school who lacked a teaching certificate, and state certification to serve as a school principal;D. paid a Black teacher less than a less experienced white teacher;E. paid staff $552,000 less than DCSS salary scale for similar positions.F. failed to institute a student remediation program;G. failed to obtain competitive bids on procurements over $25,000; andH. paid out thousands of dollars in expenses without authorization of PHCS.
Sabis isn't just a CMO, they also license their "Sabis Education Program" to schools, both public and private. Paterson Collegiate Charter School is licensing Sabis' program, and same in Jersey City at BelovED, they are not managed by Sabis.
Managing a charter school is a whole 'nother ball of wax. Here's a complete list of Sabis' management services.
And Mooney mentioned that Sabis also "runs" a charter in Camden. That would be The International Academy of Camden Charter School. Huh, hard not to notice they have the same name as the Trenton charter. And apparently the same CMO as the Trenton charter.Included is an array of all-inclusive products and services designed for the management of Pre-K and K-12 schools, namely:
- Complete curriculum aligned with country and state requirements
- Software systems to enhance efficiency and improve standards
- Ongoing academic quality control through computerized academic monitoring (SABIS AMS®) and automatically generated reports
- Concept-targeted, well-researched books supporting the SABIS® program
- Recruitment, training, and supervision of staff
- Cutting-edge research and development methods designed to optimize results
- Extensive business management services
- And much more...
Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have our first chain of for-profit charters in New Jersey.
But Wait, For-Profit Management Isn't Legal In New Jersey!
As Jessica Calefati pointed out in a great story about for-profit behemoth K12 Inc's first foray here, for-profit management isn't allowed under New Jersey law.
New Jersey law allows for-profit companies to play a big role in public schools.
One thing they can’t do is run the place.
But charter school experts and one lawmaker said it’s sometime hard to tell if the rules are being followed, and K12’s involvement with Newark Prep is one of those instances.
"Technically, on the books, K12 is just a contractor hired by Newark Prep Charter School, but in reality it is running the school, soup to nuts," said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University Teachers College professor who studies the impact of virtual charter schools across the country.
In addition, Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick Deignan (D-Middlesex) called the steep fees and the terms of the contract "deeply troubling."
It concerns me very much too Assemblyman. Very much indeed."The fact that decisions about hiring and contracts have been taken away from the public and are now in the hands of private enterprise concerns me very much," he said. (emphasis mine)
Are There Any More For-Profits?
Sabis and K12 Inc aren't the only for-profit management companies that Cerf has managed to sneak in the back door. He has also given the nod to a third for-profit operator this year, CSMI, which is running the newly-opened Camden Community Charter School.
Jersey Jazzman has written extensively about CSMI and the mad, mad money pulled in by its founder, Vahan Gureghian, but here's a basic low-down from the Philadelphia Daily News.
CSMI, the firm that runs the Chester and Camden schools, is a for-profit company founded by Vahan Gureghian, a politically connected Gladwyne lawyer who donated more than $300,000 to Gov. Corbett's gubernatorial campaign and served on the education committee of his transition team.Where's he get all that money? Right out of the public funds that flow through his CMO.
Are We OK With This?
Commissioner Cerf has a long background in for-profit education, and he is well aware that public schools haven't exactly pulled up the Welcome Wagon for the private sector.
And it was with Edison that Cerf learned “the power of politics to thwart the effort. I’m not just talking about the unions, but there is a tremendous and deep resistance—here we are in the center of capitalism, right—there is a very deep resistance to the private sector that’s embedded in the culture of public schools.”Cerf knows that for-profit management is not allowed under New Jersey state law, and that there is "very deep resistance" to the private sector entering the public schools. What better way to circumvent the laws of this state, and the will of the people of this state, than to approve charters in the dark of night.
Wake up New Jersey! Your public schools are being privatized!! Cerf wouldn't dare try to open a for-profit charter in a suburban district. But in Camden and Trenton he thinks no one will notice or even care.
And it looks like he's right.
|They have absolutely no idea what I'm really up to...|