Wednesday, March 29, 2017

$115 Million Price Tag for Christie Growth of Gulen Charters

On the heels of an explosive investigation of Gulen Charter Schools in New Jersey by The Record, comes a report today from CBS claiming that teachers at Gulen charters were forced to turn over up to 40% of their salary to the Gulen movement.

Leaving aside the insanely complex political issues for the moment, I'd like to add to the phenomenal job The Record has done investigating New Jersey's Gulen charters. 

Unbeknownst to most of us, Chris Christie has exponentially increased the number of Gulen charters in New Jersey - which will, without a doubt, dramatically increase the price tag as well. But by how much? 

Let's find out.

When he took office, four Gulen affiliated schools existed.

Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School (TEECS) - 2002
Paterson Charter School for Science & Technology - 2003
Central Jersey College Prep - 2006
Bergen Arts and Science - 2007

Chris Christie has opened three new Gulen charters, and has approved a fourth to open in September, 2017.

Passaic Arts and Science - 2011
Paterson Arts and Science - 2013
Hudson Arts and Science - 2016
Union Arts and Science - opening September 2017

Simply put, Christie has doubled the number of Gulen charters in his two terms.

How much is this costing New Jersey taxpayers in 2017?

Thanks to an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request, I have the State Charter School Aid summaries for every single charter school in the state for FY17, so I can easily calculate that amount.

In the 2016-17 school year the taxpayers of New Jersey shelled out $64,972,385 to fund seven Gulen charters.
Central Jersey College Prep: $6,203,605
Bergen Arts and Science: $14,016,818
Passaic Arts and Science: $10,857,525
Paterson Arts and Science: $6,984,518
Hudson Arts and Science: $3,816,388
Paterson Charter School for Science & Tech: $14,615,460
Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School: $4,667,683
Kind of shocking, no?

Here are those aid summaries, so you can see the numbers for yourself and you can see if your district is impacted. (There's a zoom feature at the bottom) I think you'll be surprised to see just how many districts are impacted, and how much money they are losing.

And as if the loss of almost 65 million dollars is not wild enough, wait until you hear about the expansions Governor Christie's administration has approved for these schools. 

Chris Christie explodes the number of Gulen charter seats

According to the aid summaries, these seven schools are serving approximately 4,797 students this year. 

Here are the expansions and new charter schools the Christie administration has approved in the last two years alone:


Bergen Arts and Science CS
Garfield, Hackensack, Lodi
Thomas Edison Energy Smart CS
Franklin Twp, North Brunswick, South Brunswick

New Charter School

Union Arts and Science CS
(240 students)


Paterson Arts and Science Charter School
K-8, 540
K-12, 897
Central Jersey College Prep Charter School
New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Franklin
K-2, 6-12, 480
K-12, 1,320
Passaic Arts and Science Charter School
K-10, 860
K-12, 1,021
Hudson Arts and Science Charter School
Jersey City, Kearny
K-5, 360
K-8, 1,021
Paterson Charter School for Science & Technology



K-12, 1,068

K-12, 1,584

And now to total up all the new seats. 

You'll notice the 2016 summary from the state doesn't make it easy to see how many seats they've added, so I had to do some digging. It looks like Bergen A&S was given an increase from 1,040 students to 1,400, a total of 360 new seats.

In the letter below, former Commissioner David Hespe says he's limiting TEECS's expansion, citing a lack of diversity, but he still allows TEECS to add an additional 200 seats. Not much of a punishment for not serving the same demographic mix as the sending districts, now is it? Read my good buddy Jersey Jazzman for more on the segregation happening at TEECS.

That makes 560 new seats just for Bergen A&S and TEECS, plus another 240 when Union Arts & Sciences opens up in September of 2017 to serve kids in K-2. Union A&S was approved to serve K-5, so at full expansion they will have 480 available seats.

Hudson Arts and Science just opened in September of 2016 to serve 360 kids in grades K-5. They were approved to serve K-8, so at full expansion they will serve 540 students, for a total of 180 additional seats.

And here's how many new seats were just approved in February of 2017.

Paterson Arts and Science: 357
Central Jersey College Prep: 840 (this includes a 360 seat new facility in New Brunswick)
Passaic Arts and Science: 161
Hudson Arts and Science: 661
Paterson Charter School for Science & Technology: 480

That's another 2,499 seats in 2017 to add to the 1,220 additional seats for Bergen, Hudson and Union A&S, and TEECS, for a total of 3,719 seats still to come in Gulen charter schools.

How much more is that going to cost?

According to the Aid Summaries above, there are 4,797 students enrolled in Gulen charters this school year. With a total of $64,972,385 spent, that's an average of $13,544.38 per student.

At that per pupil average, Christie's continued reckless expansion of Gulen charter schools will add another $50,371,549 burden to the taxpayers of New Jersey. 

After Christie leaves office, if the next administration doesn't do something to halt this unprecedented growth, the people of the fine state of New Jersey will soon spend $115,343,934 per year to support a network of Gulen charter schools.

And remember - Christie approves 'em but we pay for 'em out of our local tax dollars.

So what do we do?

If you think this is outrageous, start talking to the candidates for Governor of both parties. 

Show up at their meetings. Ask them questions. Send them letters. Let them know that if they want your vote they need to halt the charter school growth Christie has unleashed on the people of New Jersey. While you're at it, tell them they need to fix New Jersey's charter school law and give local school boards the say over new charters. 

And don't forget to tell the gubernatorial candidates that Christie made these decisions as he was about to walk out the door, sticking the next administration with this gigantic mess to figure out. 

Swell guy, that Christie.