Last week I wrote about Education Law Center’s attempt to close down preschool programs for low-income children run by charter schools in Abbott districts. Today the eight charter schools, as well as New Jersey Charter School Association and New Jersey Children’s Foundation, sent the following letter to Cary Booker, the Department of Education’s Assistant Commissioner for Early Childhood, correcting misinformation provided by ELC Executive Director David Sciarra.
December 18, 2019
Cary Booker, Assistant Commissioner – Early Childhood New Jersey Department of Education 100 Riverview Plaza P.O. Box 500 Trenton, NJ 08625-0500
Re: Implementation of Preschool Programs by Charter Schools
Dear Assistant Commissioner Booker,
We write in response to a recently published letter sent to you by Mr. David Sciarra at the Education Law Center (“Re: Implementation of Preschool Programs by Charter Schools”, 12/3/19). While Mr. Sciarra is a passionate advocate for children, his letter is mistaken on the facts about charter schools and preschool programs.
The question raised by the ELC letter is whether charter schools in so-called Abbott districts are legally entitled to operate preschool programs. The answer is an unqualified yes.
The ELC argues that because district factor group A and B school districts are required under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (“Act”), to provide free access to full-day preschool for all three- and four-year old pupils, this means by extension that charter schools are prohibited from offering preschool programs. In fact, the same Act provides just the opposite. The Act amended the Charter School Program Act of 1995, (N.J.S.A. 18A:36A), to expressly provide for the transfer of preschool aid to charter schools, which provide preschool programs. In pertinent part, the Act states that “…the school district of residence shall pay directly to the charter school …if applicable, 100% of preschool education aid,” for each student enrolled in the charter school who resides in the district. See, P.L. 2007, c.260, section 58. In addition, the Charter School Regulations at N.J.A.C. 6A:11-4.7 expressly provide that a charter school may enroll students in preschool if the district has a State-funded preschool program.
Finally, with regard to the ELC’s concerns about a “two-tiered system”, charter schools offering preschool are annually evaluated and approved by your office and held to strict reporting and accountability requirements to ensure only high-quality programs are in place.
We appreciate your attention to this matter and welcome any opportunity to discuss improving early childhood options for children in New Jersey.
1 AAA Drive Suite 206 Hamilton, NJ 08691 Phone: 609-989-9700 Fax: 609-989-9745 Email: [email protected]
Camden’s Promise Charter School
Jersey City Golden Door Charter School
John P. Holland Charter School
Learning Community Charter School
Marion P. Thomas Charter School
Philip’s Academy Charter School of Newark
University Heights Charter School
Vineland Public Charter School
New Jersey Charter Schools Association
New Jersey Children’s Foundation
CC: Dr. Lamont Repollet, Commissioner, Department of Education
Tonya Coston, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Division of Early Childhood Education Julie Bunt, Director, Office of Charter and Renaissance Schools