A bill that holds charter kids hostage

Editorial by the Star-Ledger Editorial Board

06/11/15

For suburban parents, charter schools are a political debate. For a desperate parent in Newark, where so many schools are failing, they are an educational lifeline. 

Tens of thousands of parents lined up on the most recent waiting lists at KIPP and NorthStar, two top charters that are the most requested schools in Newark. 

Now, a bill from Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex and Morris) would effectively slam the door on them. It would impose a moratorium on the expansion of any charter school in the state, leaving all those parents out of luck. This prompted a heated protest outside her office on Tuesday.

Not only would this bill cut off charter school growth to accommodate new kids, it would also deny kids already enrolled a chance to advance to the next grade. This is because charter schools often grow one grade level at a time. Many don't yet have their charters approved for the upcoming school year, and Jasey's bill would forbid the education commissioner from doing so. 

Seek Academy, one of KIPP's newest elementary schools, currently only has permission from the state to grow up until second grade. When those kids hit third grade, under Jasey's bill, they'll have nowhere to go. They'll all be kicked back into the district schools.

Jasey acknowledges she is doing this for political reasons. She says she wants to force a conversation about updating the state's charter law, and the concerns of outraged parents "can be addressed in a hearing." 

But several legislators have already proposed changes to the state's charter law. That conversation is going on already. A moratorium would only hold kids hostage to these political battles. What Jasey has done is turn a conversation into an angry protest.

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