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 Applicants||State||1st Year Amount Awarded|
|8 Points Charter School, Inc.||IL||$200,000|
|Academy for Global Citizenship Charter School||IL||$200,000|
|ASPIRA, Inc. of Pennsylvania||PA||$200,000|
|Barbara Jordan Academy||MD||$200,000|
|Be The Change Charter School||IL||$55,000|
|Birchtree Parents Guild, Inc.||AZ||$190,761|
|Bright Horizon Charter School||NJ||$199,099|
|Buffalo Creek School, Inc||VA||$61,925|
|Columbus Collegiate Academy, Inc||OH||$200,000|
|Creative City Public Charter School Foundation, Inc||MD||$175,000|
|Friends of Tikun Olam||NJ||$200,000|
|Friere Charter School||PA||$298,600|
|Joseph Charter School||OR||$226,168|
|KIPP Tulsa Academy College Preparatory||OK||$177,000|
|Legal Prep Charter Academies||IL||$200,000|
|Northwestern University Settlement Association||IL||$200,000|
|Shalom Academy Charter School, Inc||NJ||$200,000|
|Spirit Preparatory Charter School||NJ||$186,562|
|The Catalyst Schools||IL||$200,000|
|The Graham School||OH||$50,000|
|The Montessori Network||IL||$165,000|
|Urban Affairs Coalition||PA||$302,730|
|Urban Prep Academies||IL||$202,500|
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 School||Cherry Hill|
|DREAM Prep Academy||Jersey City|
|Promise CS for Excellence||Linden, Elizabeth, Roselle|
|Lillie Mae Jenkins Charter School||Newark|
|New Day Charter HS||Newark|
|Bright Horizons||Penns Grove, Carney's Point|
|Princeton International Academy Charter School||South Brunswick, Princeton Regional, West Windsor-Plainsboro|
|Shalom Academy Charter School||Teaneck|
|Willingboro Academy Charter School||Willingboro|
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.
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.