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New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools Proposes”School Choice”

School Choice by ArtChick

file photo by ArtChick

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ,  according to a report from the Ridgewood Board of Education , last May, the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools sued New Jersey to desegregate our public schools.  Gary Stein, former NJ Supreme Court Justice, chairs this group.

Since the suit, the Coalition and the state have been in settlement talks. Eleven months later, the Coalition is frustrated by the lack of progress and is ready to go back to court.  They allege that the state’s school residency requirements are unconstitutional because these regulations lead to school segregation.

Continue reading New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools Proposes”School Choice”
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Social Justice Group Files Lawsuit to Force New Jersey to Integrate its Schools


May 19,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, a coalition organized as the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, including the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Latino Action Network, and Shiloh Baptist Church, the African American Chamber of Commerce and others, decried the existing, still unrectified educational divide in this state and have filed a lawsuit to force integration in New Jersey Schools.

The groups filed the suit yesterday on the 64th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v Board of Education decision, which ruled school segregation unconstitutional. They argue that New Jersey’s segregated school system violates the state constitution and ask the court to stop the further assignment of students solely on the basis of residency. They also ask that the Legislature and education commissioner be ordered to devise a different system for placing students in schools. It is the first lawsuit challenging statewide school segregation filed anywhere in the nation in more than a half century.

The suit is highly critical of the state oversight of charter schools, alleging that segregation in these schools occurs not only because they are predominantly located in communities with large minority populations, but also “results from the failure of the State Commissioner of Education to perform his statutory and regulatory duties.”

The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, also backs the effort.

“New Jersey’s public schools are as segregated by race and poverty today as they were in 1954,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Sixty-four years after Brown, we have important promises to keep and still others to make to New Jersey’s students. This case is about finally making good on our promises.”
Haygood noted that the state’s racial diversity and racial segregation, in combination with its extreme wealth and punishing poverty, has fostered some of the fiercest segregation by race, ethnicity, and poverty in this country:
The median net worth for New Jersey’s white families is $271,402—the highest in America.
The median net worth for New Jersey’s Hispanic and Black families is just $7,020 and $5,900, respectively, together totaling less than 5 percent of the net worth of white families in the state.
Of the approximately 585,000 Black and Latino public school students in New Jersey, 63% of them attend schools that are more than 75% non-white.
Nearly half of all Black and Latino public school students attend schools that are more than 90% non-white.
More than 40 percent of white students attend schools that are at least 75% white.
“New Jersey cannot fulfill the promise of Brown, or the promise owed to our kids, without this lawsuit,” said Haygood. “No amount of good will, well wishes, or optimism will accomplish the systemic relief and fundamental transformation that is required. Integration is possible, it is necessary, and it is long overdue.”

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In Wall Street Journal Op Ed Cardinal Dolan says Democrats have abandoned Catholics


March 25,2018
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

New York New York, In an a scathing op-ed published Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York lamented that the Democratic Party’s shifting principles have effectively shut out and alienated orthodox Catholics.

Dolan cited the Democrat’s current opposition to school choice programs and tax credits for education, along with their unwavering support for abortion rights, among the reasons why he is disappointed with the party in its current state. Dolan said believes that the Democrats of today have abandoned many of the tenets that made the party attractive to Catholics generations ago.

Dolan was particularly critical of a proposed New York law titled the “Reproductive Health Act,” which he says would “morbidly expand” the “most radical abortion license in the country.” The New York State Assembly is overwhelmingly Democrat.

“For instance, under the proposed Reproductive Health Act, doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn simply would be allowed to die without any legal implications,” wrote Dolan.

What’s more, Dolan explained, is that he feels the Democrats are making it harder for low and middle-class children to get an education at a Catholic school.

“In recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children,” said Dolan. The cardinal said this type of legislation impedes the mission of these schools to serve poor, often immigrant, children.

Dolan admitted that while he has “ had spats and disappointments” with politicians from both major political parties in the United States, he is particularly upset by the Democratic Party’s swing in a direction that excludes people like his grandmother.

“But,” he said. “It saddens me, and [it] weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.”

The Cardinal, 68, said DNC Chairman Tom Perez insisted in 2016 that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

“The ‘big tent’ of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent,” he said.

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The Educational Monopoly is Beginning to Break Up

Ridgewood EA teachers protest

November 27,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, according to Kerry McDonald is a Senior Contributor for Intellectual Takeout , ” Parents are fed up. As mass schooling becomes more restrictive, more standardized and more far-reaching into a child’s young life, many parents are choosing alternatives. Increasingly, these parents are reclaiming their child’s education and are refocusing learning around children, family, and community in several different ways.”

It started as a trickle but now over two million U.S. children will be avoiding the school bus altogether in favor of homeschooling, an educational choice that has accelerated in recent years among both liberal and conservative families.

On top of homeschooling, an additional two million children will be educated this fall in charter schools. According to recent U.S. Department of Education data, the number of students currently enrolled in charter schools increased from 0.9 million in 2004 to 2.7 million in 2014, while the number of children enrolled in traditional public schools declined by 0.4 million during that same period. Taxpayer-funded but administered by predominantly private educational organizations, charter schools allow parents flexibility in choosing a school that is better aligned with their expectations and their child’s needs. Charter schools are often exempt from district policies and collective bargaining agreements that can halt innovation and experimentation, allowing them more instructional and organizational freedom. Demand for charter schools often outweighs current supply, with statewide charter caps, admissions lotteries, and long waiting lists leaving many parents discouraged and angry.

When Gov. Chris Christie leaves office , one of his clear legacies will be the growth of charter schools in New Jersey, with school enrollment more than doubling in his eight years in office.In July , his administration finished the job, announcing the final approval of five more schools to open this fall. That brings to 89 the number of charters that will be open when Christie steps down in January.

There will be close to 50,000 students enrolled in charters this fall, according to the state, up from less than 25,000 when he took office. More than 56,000 seats will be authorized with the latest approvals.

Advancing technology has also played a key roll . As online learning improves and expands, more parents are choosing virtual schools for their children over traditional public schools. Data from the non-profit organization, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, find that 310,000 young people in grades kindergarten through 12th grade participated in fully online programming in 2013, up from 200,000 in 2010. In addition to homeschoolers, charter school students, and virtual learners, more than four million children will avoid a traditional district school this fall to attend a U.S. private school.


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School Choice by ArtChick

file photo by ArtChick

Expanding Educational Opportunities For Children And Families

August 29,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, Governor Christie has improved the authorizing and application process, encouraged more charter school applicants, created greater flexibility with administration and finances, and allowed districts to convert failing public schools into charters. The Christie Administration has increased the overall number of charter schools in New Jersey to 89 in the current fiscal year, while relentlessly focusing on quality and holding all schools accountable for results as 21 low-performing charter schools have closed during the past eight years.

The Host District Support Aid funding category created in fiscal year 2017 continued in fiscal year 2018, and ensured the base per pupil funding provided to charter schools is not less than the prior year base per pupil funding. In addition, the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program is increasing educational opportunities for students and their families by providing students with the option of attending a public school outside their district of residence without cost to their parents.

The Fiscal Year 2018 budget is projected to support more than 52,000 charter school students and more than 5,000 choice students in 129 choice districts in the 2017-18 school year.

Governor Christie continues to support educational options for our children by providing over $51 million for Charter School Aid in fiscal year 2018. This funding supports over 52,000 students projected to be in our charter schools in FY2018. This is in addition to the tens of millions of dollars in State Aid that flow through the districts to charter schools. In certain districts, like Newark and Camden, charter and renaissance schools are educating more than 1 out of every 4 of the public school population.

Easing The Regulatory Burden Facing Charter Schools

In 2016, Governor Christie announced a series of reforms at the 8th annual New Jersey Charter Schools Conference born from input received through meetings with charter school leaders in the fall of 2015. The New Jersey State Board adopted these reforms in 2017. Among the reforms adopted were:

•       The state will allow single-gender charter schools that meet appropriate criteria and single-purpose charter schools for educationally disadvantaged students, such as a school serving over-age, under-credited students who, because of life circumstances, are unable to graduate in four years.
•       Charter renewal will be expedited for schools with a track record of high academic performance and no fiscal or organizational issues.  Charter schools that do not meet fiscal management/ compliance standards or present concerns regarding their fiscal viability will remain subject to deeper review.
•       Weighted lotteries will be expanded by adding language explicitly allowing weighted lotteries for educationally disadvantaged students.  Redundancies will be reduced by removing the requirement that charters send corrective action plans to the Executive County Superintendent as they already are submitted to the DOE Charter Office.
•       The funding monitoring requirement will be relaxed since it has become unnecessary because of the new charter performance system.  DOE will continue to monitor if charter schools are adequately allocating funds to impact what is happening in the classroom.  And, cash fund procedures, which are difficult to navigate, will be updated and simplified.
•       Districts will be required to report to DOE, on a rolling basis, any closed, unused or unoccupied school facility available for lease that would be posted online in order to facilitate cooperation between districts and charter schools.
•       Satellite campus regulations will be redefined to allow charter schools to operate on multiple campuses within their approved district or region of residence.  The requirement that charter leases cannot exceed the length of the charter – a barrier to obtaining financing – will be removed.
•       New regulations will clarify renovations, expansion and reconstruction exemptions from the Charter School Act’s restriction on construction with State of local funds.
•       The Christie Administration approved the expansion of several of the state’s highest performing charter schools.
•   In March, 20 charter schools were approved to expand to provide more than 5,000 additional seats in high performing schools in the coming years.
•       According to an independent report by The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), “Compared to the educational gains that charter students would have had in a traditional public school (TPS), the analysis shows that students in New Jersey charter schools on average make larger learning gains in both reading and mathematics:

In Newark: “When we investigate the learning impacts of Newark charter schools separately, we find that their results are larger in reading and math than the overall state results.”

“On average, charter students in New Jersey gain an additional two months of learning in reading over their TPS counterparts.  In math, the advantage for charter students is about three months of additional learning in one school year. Charter students in Newark gain an additional seven and a half months in reading and nine months in math.”

Among Black Students: “Black students enrolled in charter schools show significantly better performance in reading and math compared to Black students in TPS.”
Among Hispanic Students: “In both math and reading, Hispanic students in charter schools perform significantly better than Hispanic students in TPS.”
•       According to a 2015 independent report on Urban Charter Schools by The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), students enrolled in charter schools in Newark, on average, make statistically significantly greater gains in both reading and math compared to their counterparts enrolled in Newark’s traditional public schools.  While, in Newark, charter schools on average are doing a better job of closing achievement gaps than are traditional public schools.

K-8 Schools:
From 2009 to 2014, charter schools serving K-8 students improved 6 percentage points in Language Arts Literacy and 15 percentage points in Mathematics, in the aggregate, on the NJASK.

Based on NJASK data in 2014, 64 out of 74 charter schools outperformed their comparative districts in language arts literacy.
Based on NJASK data in 2014, 64 out of 74 charter schools outperformed their comparative districts in mathematics.
°   High Schools:
From 2009 to 2014, charter schools serving high school students improved 17 percentage points in both Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics, in the aggregate, on the ‘Banked’ HSPA.
Based on HSPA data, in 2014, 15 out of 15 charter schools outperformed their comparative districts in language arts literacy.
Based on HSPA data, in 2014, 12 out of 15 charter schools outperformed their comparative districts in mathematics.
Across all charter schools in 2014, the graduation rate was 90% compared to a state-wide graduation rate of 89.

•       2016 Charter Schools PARCC Data

Charter schools continue to outperform their district counterparts.  In the elementary grades 3-5, 63 percent of charters outperformed the average across their district elementary schools in Math and 84 percent did so in ELA.  In the middle school grades 6-8, 84 percent of charter schools outperformed their district middle school average in Math and 89 percent did so in ELA.
Charter schools serving grades 6-8 showed impressive gains in academic performance, as measured by median School Growth Percentiles (mSGPs).  Almost half of all charters serving grades 6-8 achieved growth scores that are better than those of two-thirds of all public schools serving grades 6-8 in the state.

•       Newark Charter Schools PARCC Performance

Charter schools in Newark are effectively accelerating student learning: in a district typically underperforming statewide achievement results, for two consecutive years students in grades 3-8 in Newark charter schools have met or exceeded expectations on PARCC assessments at the same rate as their peers around the state. For example, in 2015-16, the last year with available data, 51 percent of students in grades 3-8 in Newark charter schools met or exceeded expectations on a PARCC assessment in ELA compared to 50 percent of students in grades 3-8 across the state. In the same year, the percent of students in grades 3-8 who met or exceeded expectations on a PARCC assessment in math was 43 percent for Newark charter school students compared to 43 percent statewide.
Charter schools in Newark are effectively accelerating student learning for traditionally underserved subgroups: Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and minority students enrolled in grades 3-8 in Newark charter schools are meeting or exceeding expectations on PARCC assessments at a greater rate than their counterparts across the state. For example, in 2015-16, 63 percent of Hispanic students enrolled in grades 3-8 in Newark charter schools met or exceeded expectations on a PARCC assessment in ELA compared to 36 percent of Hispanic students statewide.

Newark charter schools have virtually eliminated the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students. In 2015-16, statewide proficiency rates for students eligible for free or reduced price lunch trailed those for non-eligible students by 30 percentage points in both ELA and math.  Those gaps shrinks to 3 and 2 percentage points, respectively, in Newark charter schools.


•       Since taking office, state funding to support the local share of funding for students transferring out-of-district to approved school choice districts has increased by over $40 million.


•       School choice funding has increased commensurately, and has surpassed $55 million in fiscal year 2018.

•       Announced pilot educational program between Harlem Children’s Zone and City of Paterson.

Improving Oversight

The Christie Administration has worked to improve accountability for charter schools by instituting an oversight program that sets clear expectations for charter school performance and serves as the basis for school evaluation, monitoring, and intervention.

The Performance Framework sets the academic, organizational and fiscal standards by which all New Jersey public charter schools are evaluated, informing officials about school performance and sustainability.
NJDOE officials expanded the rigorous standards and metrics by which each and every public charter school is evaluated. This enabled NJDOE officials to take multiple factors into account when evaluating public charter schools across the state.

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Assemblywomen Takes Issue with NJEA endorsements

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Assemblywomen Holly Schepisi took issues with NJEA endorsements yesterday and took to Facebook to make her displeasure known .

Schepisi said,“I find it fascinating that the NJEA, an organization funded primarily by female members, did not endorse one female incumbent Republican in the entire legislature. For my friends and constituents who are teachers, I have always supported teachers and I always will regardless of endorsements received or not received. I am a proud product of a public school education and the first female in my family to graduate with a college degree. I am the only female legislator currently representing any portion of Bergen County with children attending public schools. Volunteering as “teacher for the day” in many of our area schools has helped me to understand the challenges and rewards of teaching. So today I thank all of our teachers for their services provided to our children.”

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School Choice by ArtChick

photo by ArtChick


In the eight years the governor has headed up state government, charter school enrollment has more than doubled

When Gov. Chris Christie leaves office in six months, one of his clear legacies will be the growth of charter schools in New Jersey, with school enrollment more than doubling in his eight years in office.

Yesterday, his administration finished the job, announcing the final approval of five more schools to open this fall. That brings to 89 the number of charters that will be open when Christie steps down in January.

That number isn’t that big an increase from the 70 in place in 2010 at the start of Christie’s tenure, a number that jumped to over 90 in his first year. But his administration ultimately closed nearly 20 charter schools as well.

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NJEA Blasts Prieto-Sweeney Deal on School Funding

Ridgewood Teachers

By Salvador Rizzo • 06/14/17 10:59pm

Hours after Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney announced a deal to revamp New Jersey’s school funding formula, the state’s largest teachers union called it a “senseless and cruel” way to punish some students.

The leaders of the New Jersey Education Association issued statements Wednesday night blasting the deal unveiled by Prieto (D-Hudson) and Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who had sparred for months over their competing school funding proposals.

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Bill Bennett: Trump, DeVos get it right — Feds’ role in your child’s education is shrinking. Finally!

Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education


By William J. Bennett

Published May 11, 2017
Fox News

Students of history know that governments rarely give up power without a fight. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, those who have been intoxicated with power never willingly abandon it. Yet, last year, the federal government passed a new education law which returns a significant amount of power and decision-making authority to states, districts and schools.

The bi-partisan passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act creates a unique and exciting opportunity for improving American education. The law explicitly bars the Department of Education from dictating or influencing standards or curricula at the federal level, and states and districts have a wide range of new liberties when it comes to developing accountability systems, testing and content.

But with this newfound freedom from Washington comes a newfound responsibility for excellence at the state and district level. We cannot confuse local control with laissez faire. State and local leaders must embrace this opportunity and lift expectations, not relax them.

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Baraka and Pro-Charter Slate Sweeps Newark School Board Elections Again

School Choice by ArtChick

file photo by ArtChick

By Alyana Alfaro • 04/26/17 2:07pm

The Newark Unity Slate—a compromise ticket designed by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the city’s influential North Ward, and charter-school advocates—swept the city’s school board elections Tuesday night.

Of the 15 candidates on the ballot, the top vote-getter was Josephine Garcia. She brought in 3,566 votes, according to preliminary results by the Essex County Clerk’s Office.

Garcia was the North Ward candidate, aligned with Councilman Anibal Ramos. Reginald Bledsoe—Baraka’s pick— won 3,382 votes. The candidate backed by pro-charter advocates, Floshina Johnson, won 2,717 votes.