Pa., N.J., and Del. all get lower grades on charter school ranking
January 17, 2012By Elizabeth Fiedler
All three states in this region got lower grades in a report out Tuesday that ranks state charter-school laws across the country.
New Jersey fell to No. 31 in the ranking by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. This happened even though Gov. Christie in November signed a law enabling private schools in struggling districts to convert to tax-funded charters.
The alliance ranks states based on how well they support charter school quality, accountability and growth.
The report's author, Todd Ziebarth, said New Jersey's laws regarding charters have some strong points but he believes that state has significant room for improvement.
"New Jersey fell five spots, one of the bigger drops in the report," he said. "The law only allows somebody who wants to start a charter to go to the State Department of Education. And New Jersey's law is relatively silent on the main mechanism of accountability in the charter school movement, which is a performance-based contract."
Julia Rubin is a spokesperson for Save our Schools NJ, a grassroots, non-partisan, all-volunteer organization dedicated to making sure every child in the Garden State has access to a high-quality public school education. She agrees the charter situation in the state is a mixed bag.
"New Jersey's charter school law is better than those in places like Florida, for example, which allow for-profit charter school management companies—which has lead to significant abuse and corruption and scandals," Rubin said. "But I would say we're right up there in terms of the worst in the country in terms of how undemocratic our approval process is."
Ziebarth said Pennsylvania and Delaware, which generally have been more welcoming to charters than New Jersey and have proportionally more of them, both fell in the rankings because of changes made to laws in other states.
Pennsylvania dropped from No. 12 to No. 16; Delaware fell from 18 to 22.