NJEA Loses in Appellate Court on "Blended Learning" Charter Schools

The New Jersey Appellate Court ruled against NJ Education Association yesterday, denying its challenge to former Commissioner Cerf's approval of two "blended learning" schools,  i.e., brick and mortar schools that use online coursework as part of the school day. Here's coverage from NJ Spotlight (with a link to the actual decision) and the Star Ledger, and here's NJEA's press release saying that it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

NJEA never had much of a case. After all, most NJ traditional schools already use some form of blended learning: online modules, flipped classrooms, subscriptions to various kinds of online instruction.  The Star Ledger:  "Blended learning is a technologically based teaching approach that is gaining popularity in New Jersey. Traditional public schools in Elizabeth, Perth Amboy and Newark are among those using online instruction as a regular part of the school day.”

NJEA's argument is less about the pitfalls of online instruction or the intent of the Charter School Act and more about fear that all public schools -- charter and traditional -- are evolving in a direction that may change the teaching profession and, potentially, cost jobs. That's fair, but would hardly pass muster in a courtroom in the context of a charter school approval.

Here's the Court on whether NJEA has standing to challenge the approval of blended-learning charters:
NJEA is a collective bargaining organization of teachers and other educators. It claims its members, as well as their students, will be deprived of public funding for traditional public schools if online teaching methodology is funded by public tax dollars. NJEA alleges its members have an adverse private interest because approval of such charter schools will affect their employment. In another context, we have held that “an organization whose members are aggrieved  and have interests that are sufficiently adverse has standing to challenge agency action on behalf of its members.

And here's the Court on NJEA's argument that the exclusion of "blended learning" in the Charter School Act is grounds for disapproving charters that use that form of teaching:
We find no merit in NJEA’s argument that the absence of an express reference to online teaching in the Act and its legislative history suggests the Legislature would not permit that form of teaching. The Act does not make reference to any specific teaching method. If online teaching methods are prohibited because they are not expressly mentioned, then it follows that all novel teaching methods not prescribed by the Act are prohibited. Adopting the NJEA’s position would defeat the Legislature’s stated purpose.

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