$14.5M to N.J. to expand number of charter schools

TRENTON – New Jersey will receive $14.5 million in federal Education Department funds to expand the number of charter schools, the state Education Department said Tuesday.

The award, made possible by the Charter Schools program, will go toward funding start-up charter schools for their first three years, funding existing charter schools looking to expand, and sharing best practices between charter and public schools.

“We have and will continue to support the expansion of high-quality charter schools as one way to ensure that all students have great educational options available to them,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “Every student in New Jersey deserves a choice of where they attend school, not only to ensure that no child is assigned to a failing school, but also so that families can select a school that gives their child the best opportunity for success.”

The federal Charter Schools Grant provides financial support to new charter schools that do not receive their first state aid payments often until several months after they begin operations and that often face financial difficulties as they are forced to cover fixed overhead costs while increasing enrollment (and therefore increasing state aid) each year. 

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said that while many charter schools have been successful, often outperforming public schools, the opposite has also been true in a few cases.

“In exchange for greater autonomy to innovate and meet the specific needs of their students, charters have been held to strict account for the results they achieve in the classroom for students.  We will not accept failure for our state’s children and will continue to hold all of our schools, both district and charter, accountable for their results.”

The Department of Education applied for the Charter Schools Program in 2011.  From that application round, two states were awarded grants for Fiscal Year 2011.  New Jersey ranked fourth overall in their application, and so was one of three states to receive funding in Fiscal Year 2012.  New Jersey last won a Charter Schools Program grant in 2006. $14.5M to N.J. to expand number of charter schools