Application for Proposed Virtual Charter School Denied
Proposed virtual charter in Teaneck is one of 22 denied applications, state officials say.
The state Department of Education has denied an application to open a controversial statewide virtual charter school in Teaneck, officials said Monday.
Garden State Virtual Charter School, which had touched off controversy in Teaneck after the state sent a letter to township school officials saying the charter could cost $15.4 million, was one of 22 charter applications that did not make it to the second round of reviews, said Justin Barra, a spokesman for the Education Department.
The charter school was proposed to eventually serve 3,500 students statewide using online courses, with a drop-in center located in Teaneck. Jason Flynn, the school's co-founder, was notified of the denial in a letter from the DOE Monday, according to a statement issued by the charter school's board.
“We are extremely disappointed in the outcome. We addressed enthusiastically and with rigor every question and concern raised by the Department when we initially filed our application during the last round,” the statement said. "Because we have not yet determined our next steps, we will not be able to say more about the process."
The Teaneck Board of Education had filed a petition to block the school and a court hearing was scheduled for Monday, but was rescheduled before officials announced the application was denied.
School officials had argued the possible cost would force deep cuts to local public school programs and staffing. State officials later said the number was only a guide and not a budget requirement.
Teaneck Schools Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said Monday she was relieved by the news. The district has not yet received any official notice of the state's decision, she said.
Pinsak said she hoped the state would develop better ways to vet the applications before asking districts to budget funds. During the process, Teaneck school officials had sought written confirmation from the state that they would not have to budget the full $15.4 million.
"I can't understand why we couldn't get something a lot sooner," she said.
Education Department representatives have said the cost would ultimately have been based on the amount of students who enrolled from Teaneck.
The Board of Education would decide whether to pursue its legal motion seeking a moratorium on all virtual charter schools until the state can come up with specific regulations, Pinsak said. A hearing at the Office of Administrative Law was set for Friday, but Barra did not know if it was still planned.
Pinsak noted the support from community members who had organized to lobby state officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, to block the school's approval.
"I'm really impressed by all the people who stepped up," she said.
Barra would not comment specifically on why the virtual charter school was denied, but said the application review was a two-part process. The Teaneck charter school was the only proposed virtual school in the current round of applications.
"In our review, we evaluated both the strength of the proposed educational program and the capacity of the founding team to implement that program," Barra said in an e-mail. "Applicants that did not move on to the second stage of the process did not meet our review benchmarks in these areas."
The virtual charter school’s application raised questions about the more than decade old regulation governing charter schools in New Jersey. Although online charter schools are seemingly cheaper to operate, the current regulation makes no distinction between emerging virtual programs and brick-and-mortar schools.
Opponents questioned a $4.7 million surplus the virtual charter projected to run after its first year. Flynn had said the school wouldn’t need the surplus and would push to change the regulations. He also said he would have delayed the school’s launch if the state funding formula was not addressed.