East Brunswick School Board loses bid to have charter school cease operations

TRENTON – The East Brunswick Board of Education has lost an attempt to have a charter school shut down.

A state appeals court ruled today that the state Education Commissioner did not abuse his discretion regarding the approval process for the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School.

The school board wanted the school’s charter revoked and wanted the court to order the state to have operations at the school wind down.

The court in its ruling said that there was no basis to “second guess’’ the Commissioner’s decision that allowed the charter school to operate for an initial four-year period that began on July 1 of last year.

Among other things, the East Brunswick Board of Education had argued that the Commissioner disregarded state regulations, in particular, that the charter school had not met the 90 percent of maximum enrollment standard by a certain date and thus was ineligible for approval.

In March 2009, Danna Nezaria, president of the Board of Trustees of Hatikvah, submitted Hatikvah’s application to the Department of Education to establish a charter school in East Brunswick that proposed to serve grades kindergarten through second during its first year of operation.

Then-Commissioner Bret Schundler subsequently granted final approval of Hatikvah’s charter.

Among other things, the local school board argued that the charter school “interfered with the separation of church and state, had a negative economic impact on the district’s taxpayers, and did not comport with the requirements for charter schools” as codified in state law.

In addition, the board argued that “Hatikvah’s single-cultural, single emersion Hebrew language charter school would be at odds with and would not serve the multi-cultural community.”

But in granting approval, the Commissioner noted the strengths of Hatikvah’s implementation plan and the adequacy of the fiscal plan.

Also, the court in its ruling today noted that if enrollment problems ever arise, the Commissioner is empowered to take necessary action.

East Brunswick School Board loses bid to have charter school cease operations