Thursday, July 19, 2012

United States DOE Awards Over $2M to Four Charters That Will Never Serve A Single Student!

Just a quick post today to point out something rather striking.

Last October, my battle against Tikun Olam hit the national stage when the United States Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement awarded "Friends of Tikun Olam", a non-profit started by the lead founder, a $600,000 federal grant.

They were not the only New Jersey charter awarded funds.  The Shalom Academy, Spirit Preparatory Charter School, and Bright Horizon Charter School, each received similar or slightly smaller awards as well.

Non-SEA (84.282B) Successful ApplicantsState1st Year Amount Awarded
8 Points Charter School, Inc.IL$200,000
Academy for Global Citizenship Charter SchoolIL$200,000
ASPIRA, Inc. of PennsylvaniaPA$200,000
Barbara Jordan AcademyMD$200,000
Be The Change Charter SchoolIL$55,000
Birchtree Parents Guild, Inc.AZ$190,761
Bright Horizon Charter SchoolNJ$199,099
Buffalo Creek School, IncVA$61,925
Columbus Collegiate Academy, IncOH$200,000
Creative City Public Charter School Foundation, IncMD$175,000
Friends of Tikun OlamNJ$200,000
Friere Charter SchoolPA$298,600
Joseph Charter SchoolOR$226,168
KIPP Tulsa Academy College PreparatoryOK$177,000
Legal Prep Charter AcademiesIL$200,000
Northwestern University Settlement AssociationIL$200,000
Shalom Academy Charter School, IncNJ$200,000
Spirit Preparatory Charter SchoolNJ$186,562
The Catalyst SchoolsIL$200,000
The Graham SchoolOH$50,000
The Montessori NetworkIL$165,000
Urban Affairs CoalitionPA$302,730
Urban Prep AcademiesIL$202,500

Guess what?

Every single one of them has been denied by Acting Commissioner Cerf.  

Tikun Olam's fourth application was denied approval.

Spirit, Shalom and Bright Horizon were all denied their final charter by Acting Commissioner Cerf on Monday.

Charter Schools Denied Final Approval
Regis Academy Charter SchoolCherry Hill
DREAM Prep AcademyJersey City
Promise CS for ExcellenceLinden, Elizabeth, Roselle
Lillie Mae Jenkins Charter SchoolNewark
New Day Charter HSNewark
Spirit PrepNewark
Bright HorizonsPenns Grove, Carney's Point
Princeton International Academy Charter SchoolSouth Brunswick, Princeton Regional, West Windsor-Plainsboro
Shalom Academy Charter SchoolTeaneck
Willingboro Academy Charter SchoolWillingboro

This means the USDOE is 0 for 4 in New Jersey.  Stellar job there guys.  You may want to go back and look at your criteria for awarding grants.  Or maybe, how about waiting to award them until applicants actually have their final approval?  Otherwise, that's a whole lot of money spent that NEVER reaches a single student.

Just sayin'.

Luckily, Tikun Olam's funds were never dispersed because we were able to stop them in their tracks before they received approval from the state.  However, we were told that if they gained approval in another round, the funds would still be at their disposal.  This didn't sit too well with the good people of Highland Park, and lots of us contacted Congressman Frank Pallone and asked for his help.  

The Congressman intervened, and recently informed us that the grant for Tikun Olam is in the process of being "closed out," saving taxpayers $600,000 and ensuring Tikun Olam can't continue to reapply with a $600,000 federal grant in their back pocket.

But what about the funds for the other three charters that have now been denied?  Have the first year amounts already been dispersed?  That's $585,661 dollars, quite possibly already spent by the USDOE, and again, not a single student has been educated.

I called the Director of the USDOE's Charter Schools Program, Stefan Huh, and asked him if the funds had been dispersed, and was asked to put my request in writing so it could be shared with his office.  He said they would advise me whether or not they could just answer my question, or whether I need to submit a Freedom Of Information Act request.

I guess information is less free when it makes the USDOE look like they don't know what they're doing with our tax dollars.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. You know what people like you who are not informed about the whole process make me sick, why not talk to one of the denied applicants like myself and see if you are looking at everything from all perspectives!!

    1. If you are so informed and have another perspective, then why are you posting anonymously?

      Hmmmm? Very suspicious.

  2. While I am certainly more than a bit taken aback by the comment that people like me make you "sick", I am actually probably more sympathetic than you might think to the effects Acting Commissioner Cerf's capricious and arbitrary decisions have on charter opponents and proponents alike.

    I think it is high time that the Acting Commissioner and his DOE be held accountable for the decisions they make, whether the decision is to not approve an application, or to approve it but not open the charter, or to close an existing charter.

    The only way I think this will happen is if charters are only opened in communities that want and need them, and their approval is part of a community process. Without community buy-in, I believe these kinds of struggles will continue. I also believe that as long as we have an Acting Commissioner that promotes "competition" in public education, charters and traditional public school advocates will increasingly find it difficult to find common ground.

    Please, if you would like, contact me and share your story. I would be more than happy to hear it, and will share it if you would like. But please, refrain from such unnecessarily nasty attacks.

  3. Let me ask you this what in your eyes is the process in getting to final approval? Perhaps you are not paying close attention to the organizations that were approved and the individuals who were not. I think your blogs made it more obvious than many, how do you get final approval, hmmm! If you truly believe the towns don't have a say you are right! They only get to talk if they have the right person's ear.

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