Christie Charter School Speech Round-Up

Yesterday Gov. Chris Christie gave the keynote at the New Jersey Charter School Association Conference in Atlantic City. (I live-tweeted it if you want to check that out.) Before a large enthusiastic crowd of charter school teachers, administrators, and backers, he announced a series of regulatory reforms that would offer more flexibility to these innovative public schools in exchange for the already-enforced increased accountability provisions. Specifically, Christie would loosen certification requirements for teachers (i.e., alternative route programs), allow single-gender schools and those focused on over-age students, expedite charter renewals for high-performing schools, require traditional districts to offer leases to charters for abandoned buildings, allow weighted lotteries that would increase acceptance rates for educationally-disadvantaged students, and allow charter school business administrators to hold CPA's instead of course requirements.

Here's local coverage.

The Star-Ledger:
 Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of traditional school districts. They are run by appointed school boards and receive per-student payments from the school districts students leave.  
"We are excited to hear that the administration will be moving those proposals forward," said Nicole Cole, president of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association. "They are really meaningful and are going to have a huge impact on our schools.    
PolitickerNJ: "Governor Chris Christie today announced a series of reforms to New Jersey’s public school system born from input received through meetings with charter school leaders last fall.  These changes will ensure students from every community have access to the best possible education, by allowing charter schools more flexibility to operate and expand."

NJ Spotlight:
 Christie spoke of further expanding the charter footprint, especially in the state’s cities, where waiting lists are in the thousands, he said. More than 50,000 students are expected to be in charters next year, more than double when Christie arrived in office. 
He didn’t say how many more were to come -- and two-dozen charter applications are now waiting word from his Department of Education for approval -- the governor very much sounded like the Christie of 2010 whose administration approved more than 20 at once. 
“We need to expand your profile in this state over the course of the next nineteen months. We need to open more charter schools. We need to expand more charter schools,” he said. “You need to take risks with me. Sixty-five hundred families in Newark, two thousand in Camden, and countless thousands of others across the state waiting for an opportunity for their children to reach their dreams is unacceptable.”
Politico:  "“Charter schools in New Jersey have been successful in spite of our regulatory environment — not because of it,” Christie said. “Instead of giving charter schools the autonomy they need to deliver the great education outcomes, we’re regulating them using almost all the same regulations that apply to traditional public schools. … It’s not good for attracting more innovative charter school operators to our state.”

Reactions from anti-choice lobbyists were swift. Politico quotes Sen. Ronald Rice, who tried to pass a charter moratorium bill: “'The governor needs to stop telling people that public schools are not working, and he’s not trying to fix the ones not working,'  Rice said." The Record cites Julia Sass Rubin, oddly identifying her as a professor at Rutgers but neglecting to note that she founded the anti-reform group Save Our Schools-NJ: "'This further deregulates charter schools and creates a more uneven playing field for schools, and raises serious concerns about abuse,' she said."

During his remarks, Christie didn't spare teacher unions from criticism, noting leaders' expensive cars and high salaries and "palace" on State Street in Trenton. From a separate article in the Star-Ledger: "'Their philosophy is that every one of their jobs, every one of their perks is more important than changing the system that they know is failing,'  Christie said of teachers unions."

NJEA responded in kind. Here's an excerpt from its press release:
[A]s long as he remains in office, we will fight every day to prevent him from doing even more damage to our public schools. We will consistently oppose his failed policy of charter school expansion. We will fight to ensure that charter schools are held to the same high standards expected of every other public school in New Jersey. And we will continue to tell the truth about New Jersey’s great public schools, which remain among the very best in America despite his cynical efforts to undermine them for his own political purposes.

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