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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  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  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 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 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.  

 


Patty Wettingfeld Monaco December 12, 2011 at 11:27 PM
I believe the Teaneck Schools provide a WIDE variety of services to many kinds of learners! I am a proud parent of Teaneck Schools children!
Barbara Ostroth December 12, 2011 at 11:33 PM
We only won this one battle. We still need to pressure state senators to work with legislature and amend this antiquated charter school law so that local districts have more say in the charter schools' governance, funding and evaluation of educational performance. This was a wake up call for many districts, more outreach is still needed and more pressure on the NJ Department of Education, the governor and the entire state legislature, including our own representatives -- some of whom are more "on board" (Huttle and Johnson).
Jessica Brown December 13, 2011 at 12:15 AM
Some people are missing the point. That seriously ill child, that is in and out of the hospital, year round, often with 7 or 8 months a year in a hospital, had the opportunity to have a relationship with a group of steady, regularly assigned teachers. Some times he / she would "attend class" live at the hospital, on his / her loaner laptop, other times from home...and when well enough, can join his / her classmates for trips, go to the walk in centers for various programs, including resource / tutor rooms. Let's not forget this program had various relationships with facilities like the liberty science center. I support our TPS, and think they are fantastic, but this program was NOT about the TPS - it was about those children, as described above, that would have now had a strong, stable, personalized program suitable for their needs. Over 10,000 families have already signed up for updates on the GSVCS. I heard that list includes almost 14,000 children. I have spoken with the founders frequently. There was going to be a lottery, according to state law, with only 1,000 children admitted. For the thousands of families that are not blessed to have mainstream, stable, ordinary children like you and I, or have unique circumstances that require a different setting for educating their child - these families will needlessly suffer without this as an additional choice for them to serve their children.
Jessica Brown December 13, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Even the TPS and TBOE said they support the VCS and the concept. They just want the funding to be clarified to require each district to only pay for their children enrolled. This is not going away...it is just a matter of time until NJ starts to serve ALL of their children the way many neighboring states are currently. If anyone reviewed the communications sent out by the GSVCS board to the TBOE or the media, they do not intend to serve "mainstream" typical children flourishing in our state's brick and mortar charter, public, private and parochial schools. Rather, these people are trying to work with the folks in Trenton, the local school boards and politicians to address laws and regulations that are nearly 20 years old, and did not contemplate these type of programs. The real issue is that the NJ BOE need to amend their regulations so that: 1. STATEWIDE VCS can register students from any school district DAY ONE AND 2. Funding for STATEWIDE VCS will ALWAYS come from a student's district of residence, not the district of the founder. This is what many are working on. This was the position of operation of the GSVCS and they sought clarification from the NJ DOE numerous times. We should want these children assisted the best way we can, and our neighbors in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are already doing this - let's join them, but just make sure it is NOT at the expense of any one district's budget.
Julia December 13, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Virtual charter schools have been a failure across the US. In PA, only one out of 9 has consistently made Annual Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind, and that one was begun by a group of public schools. Students at virtual charter schools consistently score below their brick and mortar peers on standardized tests, including students who are from middle class families and were testing at grade level while attending conventional public schools. The NJ legislature needs to close the loophole in our antiquated charter school law so that no more virtual charter schools are approved. If virtual education is appropriate for a child, it can be provided by the traditional public school system. There is absolutely no data to support the expansion of virtual charter schools in our state.
Khaliyah Legette December 13, 2011 at 01:25 AM
I am extremely relieved that this virtual charter school proposal was rejected. As a student at Teaneck High School, I participate in honors and AP classes, three sports, and a club. Accepting this proposal would have removed all of these from my agenda and completely changed my high school experience for the worse. It's time to start asking the students how we feel about something that would directly affect us, instead of letting it be decided only by township officials. After all, we are the future and how we eventually run the state, or even the country, will depend on the quality of education we receive.
JeffO December 13, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Keith, this just isn't accurate. In scenarios where charter schools draw from multiple districts, each sending district pays 90% of its own cost-per-student. So there shouldn't be any advantage to a statewide virtual school by "locating" in one district over another. The madness in this case came from the DOE's irresponsible letter to Teaneck, which punted on making a realistic estimate and suggested that as a "guideline" for budget "planning," Teaneck assume all 1,000 students would come from this district. For the sake of clear closure, Teaneck should probably still press forward with its demand that the DOE rescind that letter, though something tells me there will never be another one like it. The larger problem uniquely posed by New Jersey's charter school law remains, however: whether virtual or brick-and-mortar, NJ charter schools are imposed by the DOE but the local "hosting" districts are forced to pay for them out of their own budgets. We still need a say in what we pay.
Patricia King December 13, 2011 at 10:17 AM
I agree that the "Virtual Charter School" would have been a virtual disaster to our schools and would have placed and incredible burden on an already overburdened school system. However, we should not use this opportunity to do a victory dance since there appears to be a constant threat lurking at every turn for proposed charter schools whether they be virtual or brick and mortar. We have to continue to engage our political representatives around this issue of how charters are vetted and insist that the community have a say in the implementation of these schools. Additionally we must insist on strict guidelines, and an equitable and fair accounting, using the same standards that apply to public schools that should be equally applied to charter schools. After all charters are funded by the State and our tax paying dollars. Finally, it is time that we look at ourselves as a community and decide if we are doing all we can individually and collectively to support our public schools. Everyone has a right to chose what type of education their child receives but far too many of our residents do not consider our public schools has an educational option and why is that? We have graduates going to prestigious universities, a wide array of specialized and advanced courses, many dedicated staff members, up to date and modern facilities. Still our schools do not reflect our town! Perhaps it's time many of us make a stronger committment to our schools and really get involved.
zizi December 13, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Local dollars.... local control.... says one sign....... Yet..... when the town voters reject the school budget.... the town just shaves off a few dollars and over ride the citizen's desire to cut wasteful expense........ Ah..... local control means.... control by town mafia....... I get it.....
Keith Kaplan December 13, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Jeff, You are missing my point here. The scenario, as it played out, was that Teaneck had to front the cost and THEN we get reimbursed by the other districts once they know how many students come from where, etc... Now, if we spend $100 per student and every other district spends $50 per student, that means that the "virtual charter" gets an initial $100,000 from Teaneck (assuming 1000 students). Once they figure out that Teaneck has, let's say 10% of the kids in the charter, that means that we are going to get back 90% of that $100,000 or $90,000. BUT - because the other schools kick in 90% of what THEIR cost is per student, that means that they will be contributing far less than us on a per student count. So in terms of getting our money back, $45,000 would come from all those other towns and $45,000 would come FROM the virtual charter. Now, they've been sitting on our money for the entire time (making interest, I assume) and then sending it back -- but that's the reason that I think they will continue to pick Teaneck -- they know that they get a ton of cash up front, it's like an interest free loan.
Jessica Brown December 13, 2011 at 07:13 PM
zizi - good point. VCS that are statewide will be funded by a district only to the extent students enroll from that district. Must we get every district in the state to accept a VCS? When the public is fully educated about VCS, people will realize there are no funding issues for Teaneck or any other district. Often, children who attend VCS are those that are costing the district 2 - 5 x their average cost per pupil. Now, the district only has to spend 9 or 10k per child enrolled in the VCS. There are cases in other states where 4 children enroll from a district, and the district saves over 100k on those 4 children, versus the prior year expenditure on those 4 children.Time will resolve this issue. As usual, NJ regulations are confusing and dated - not dealing with current circumstances. I am happy to have learned that the GSVCS is here for the long haul. They want the public to understand this model and how it will operate. Ms. Pinsak refuses to meet with them. Others in the district have also. But, the fear and lies spread about this program will be cleared up and, like in many other states, eventually NJ will catch up with its neighbors. Mr. Flynn is perhaps one of the biggest supporters of the TPS that I have met. He will never let anything happen that will hurt the TPS. WIth time, people will realize, like he has, that we can serve challenged children statewide and still serve the state's "forgotten children".
Judy Distler December 13, 2011 at 07:15 PM
Is more than half a million dollars cut from the school budget just "a few dollars"? I think not - and, luckily, last year, Teaneck citizens agreed, and PASSED the school budget. Let us not forget that public schools are still the cornerstone of democracy. We cannot allow them to be decimated.
Karin Kiesow-Irvine December 13, 2011 at 07:29 PM
500k is a few dollars when you look at the BOE's total budget. I have yet to hear anyone explain WHY we (Teaneck) have such a higher cost per student then so many others. Do we as a town have that many special ed children that our costs are so high? Do we outsource educating these children instead of keeping them at home that is driving up the costs? Too many administrators?
Edward Pierce December 13, 2011 at 07:36 PM
On Tuesday, December 13th, at 7:00pm the Friends of Teaneck Community Charter School will be hosting a discussion about charter education. Some of the topics to be covered include: - intent of the original legislation - abuse of current law and the rise of “boutique” charters - virtual education and existing regulation Dr. Rex Shaw, former Director of TCCS, will facilitate the discussion. This is a very important time in education and it's essential that quality charter schools participate in the local and State dialogue involving charter school development. Teaneck Community Charter School, 563 Chestnut Ave., Teaneck
Joe December 13, 2011 at 08:23 PM
The GSVC is clearly a business plan by Connections. I doubt Mr. Flynn had very much to do with creating it. Connections is a big business and they lobbying to create virual schools for profit. I'm sure Mr. Flynn does care about Teaneck's students, but unfortunately he wouldn't have much control over the GSVC. It's clearly a Connections Academy and they don't care about students, they care about profit. The data is also clear that students at virtual charter schools do not do so well. Check out today's New York TImes article about the "profits and questions at online charter schools." http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online-schools-score-better-on-wall-street-than-in-classrooms.html I hope New Jersey doesn't allow big business to take over our public schools, which are among the best in the nation. Public schools already provide home instruction or online courses to students who are ill, pregant, or incarcerated so we don't need a for-profit virtual school to provide those services.
Jessica Brown December 13, 2011 at 08:24 PM
If statistics are correct, based on other states enrollment data, Teaneck should expect 0 - 10 students to participate in the GSVCS, once approved, be it 2012 or 2013. That would be a cost of $0 - $100,000+. Once people know what the true costs were for the TBOE to educate those 0- 10 students in prior years, it will seem like Teaneck did very well. Keith - the GSVCS has promised not to open, even once it is approved, during any round of charter approvals, until they are assured that no funding from Teaneck has to be laid out or spent on children from other districts.
zizi December 13, 2011 at 08:46 PM
The waste that I see at Teaneck schools is mind boggling.... Last week or so... I was driving on route 4... saw all lights turned on in the football field... with no one in the field....... I think we should start charging entrance fees to recoup the money that is spent on keeping the lights on...... other schools are also lit up if you care to check..... but I guess there is money allocated for these things...... paid for by the tax payers...... One should calculate what percentage more than half a million is of the total budget as pointed out by Karin..... but I guess you won't learn that in Teaneck schools..... Teaneck spends the most among all the surrounding towns per student and the results are the worst...... need I say more..... something is wrong with this picture....... I am also for a good public school system...... pointing out waste is not anti-public school.... rather it is pro-public school.... if one can only think........ positive that is......
Diane Schwarz December 13, 2011 at 09:28 PM
See some of the children in actual virtual schools and their "benefits". In NJ, there are NO laws regulating them. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online-schools-score-better-on-wall-street-than-in-classrooms.html
JeffO December 13, 2011 at 10:39 PM
My point is that I think the letter the DOE sent Teaneck was so patently absurd (though alarming to be sure) that it had to be an aberration. Had the GSVCS rejection not come first, it would likely have been overturned and I doubt we will ever see something as senseless repeated. (Though I do think the BOE should still push for a rescinding of the letter.) Obviously, you're seizing on this to make another point, though the evidence is pretty non-existent that the GSVSC founders were as calculating as you suggest, and that nothing will change after this. And it's pretty speculative to assert that the CSVSC would have been able to enjoy our money interest-free while running a $4.5 million surplus.
JeffO December 14, 2011 at 04:31 AM
If I'm not mistaken, the last time a budget defeat put the council in the position of cutting the school budget, they gutted it by $6 million.
JeffO December 14, 2011 at 04:48 AM
Jessica, if you're going to suggest dirty politics, I think you need to put some detail behind that. Care to?
Tom Abbott December 14, 2011 at 05:18 AM
K12 shares dropped 23.58% today. For another article critical of virtual schools see the Washington Post's "Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value" at http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virtual-schools-are-multiplying-but-some-question-their-educational-value/2011/11/22/gIQANUzkzN_story.html and the Nation's "How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools" at http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools
Jim Dunleavy December 15, 2011 at 05:35 PM
I saw last nite on a news show the President of the state Charter School Association. When he was asked what the performance measures are and how they are doing, he basically tried to skate the questions by raising his own questions about the reliability and validity of what is being measured, but then said overall charter school performance is marginal, mentioning only the Newark charter school as one who has had good measures. So I again for what seems to be the millionth time....why do we need charter schools?
zizi December 15, 2011 at 05:45 PM
How about asking parents to do what they should do...... parenting..... Public schools should teach what is required..... by state law...... anything out of the ordinary should be paid for by the parents..... just my 2 cents....... There is a limit to what tax payers should pay for........ do you want tax payers to pay for the school bags and lunch too.... what about the cloths and shoes.... there should come a time when parents should bear the cost of entertaining their kids..... it is absurd that tax payers should pay for after school programs..... and transportation to events...... blah blah
Charelle Wilson Hanley December 15, 2011 at 09:34 PM
There are a few people expressing virtual dreams here talking about sick kids sitting in front of TV screens to attend school. You have got to be kidding me! Obviously you have never been seriously ill and tried looking at TV for any period of time. SLEEP is what occurs not learning. If ever human contact is needed it’s following hospitalization. Only one-on-one, teacher-pupil interaction can benefit the student to evaluate their ability to learn effectively, and maintain their attention for as long a period as they are able. Trust me, no screen TV teacher, can do what needs to be done. Virtual charter school would not work in the case that you imagine. Virtual charter school can not evaluate, can not assess, and can not tell who is really paying attention and who isn’t. Someone said that it would begin in kindergarten. REALLY? Not one day of real school and you’re going to put a child in front of a screen to learn? There is no way that I see a child learning virtually at that early age. No social interaction with other children. No play time, or sharing, or singing together. No one there to assist them with holding the pencil, saying the word correctly, spelling the word, moving the blocks, putting the puzzle together, painting, coloring, drawing, writing. No Virtual school can not do what needs to be done by a real teacher for the young students in the first years of school where these skills need to be learned.
Karin Kiesow-Irvine December 15, 2011 at 10:11 PM
No way you see a chid learning by sitting in front of the T.V.? So much for Sesame Street, Word Girl, Cyber Chase and other educational shows that actually teaching children things. I am not for 100% sitting in front of a tv or computer screen to learn but kids do learn sitting in front of the idiot box. As to socialization you don't need to be in a school environment to socialize (parks/museums/grocery store etc.) Now legally I am thinking that you can not leave a 6 year old home alone so I would think that a parent would be home with their child(ren) if they decided to use a virtual charter school program. The parent would be there to make sure that their children are paying attention and doing what they should be doing, just like a teacher in the PS system except the parent has the benefit of not having 30 kids sitting in her living room. And your last statement I totally disagree with. My children and many others do not require a paid teacher to teach them to color/ hold a pencil/ learn to read/ put a puzzle together etc. because they have their parents to do that ..PARENTS are the first teachers of their children. I did all of these things with my kids and much more with them before they were school age and by the time they got to Kindergarten they were more then ready to get down to some real learning.
Aristides December 16, 2011 at 01:20 AM
In addition to the two articles recommended four places above this by Tom Abbott, have a look at a third: 'The Myth of Charter Schools,' a documentary film review by Diane Ravitch that appeared in the 'New York Review of Books' in January. The URL is <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools>. The main film of the 3 she reviews is 'Waiting for "Superman"'. ---Aristides
DMAB6395 December 19, 2011 at 08:15 PM
I for one am not happy about this being denied. I've talked to a few teachers in my family & they are in support of a virtual charter school anywhere. It's good for the children. Many of the people that I have read your comments are about taxes etc. Our school system is failing. This no money for books, paper, etc. Where my niece goes to school they are not allowed to take their books home or out of their classroom because the whole school has to share those books. As of Jan 1, 2012 they will no longer have any paper for them to make copies etc so they have no worksheets for them to take home to do homework-so they have no books & no paper. They have no after school activites except for sports but next year they may not have that either. In Teaneck we pay the highest property taxes in the state and 95% of that tax goes to education-but we don't have the supplies for our children either. I know i'm going to get beaten up for this but I am for the virtual charter schools-I was on the fence before I spoke to teachers that are all for it. Face it people in a few years there will be NO brick & mortar schools for our children I think & I know teachers who say the same thing we are going to have our children home & they will be learning on the computer. There classrooms will be like Skype with a teacher on 1 end & our children on the other. I'm just giving my opinion here on the facts that I've heard from teachers. So be kind in beating me up for MY OPINION. Home schooled children
DMAB6395 December 19, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Home schooled children rank better than those that go to school. I'm not talking about children that are home being taught by a parent I am talking about children that are in the virtual charter schools. Now let the beating begin because I know it's coming. I know I'm going to bashed by some very rude people as well.
Karin Kiesow-Irvine December 19, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Yeah the idea that in a few years all brick and mortar schools are going to be obsolete and be replaced by virtual schools is a joke. The parents would never allow that (sorry) ..yeah just not seeing it.

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