Why We Don’t Support Regis Academy’s Plan

By Senator James Beach, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt

When it comes to education, our state has reached a critical crossroads.

Far too many children in New Jersey are trapped in chronically failing schools. Far too many of our kids are denied a true shot at opportunity, at breaking the cycle of poverty, simply because they grew up in the wrong ZIP code. One thing is clear: we can and must do better.

That’s why we have supported innovative ideas and new approaches to student learning, like charter schools, to help give children in chronically-failing schools the tools they need to succeed. When New Jersey began to allow charter schools, the focus of the debate was on assisting these children, who are some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. We believe the goal of charter schools should be to help those kids who need it most, rather than approving charter schools in some of our highest performing and successful school districts.

Unfortunately, though, Regis Academy’s plan to create a charter school in Cherry Hill misses the mark.

In its current form, Regis Academy would draw students from Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Lawnside and Somerdale. Given the importance of funding our public schools and the 2% cap on property tax growth, the approval of charter schools in higher performing districts like Cherry Hill and Voorhees would result in undue hardship—both to students and taxpayers.

Let’s be clear: we think Regis Academy’s goal of educating kids is laudable. But equally clearly, we strongly believe Regis, or any other charter school, should focus on helping break enduring cycles of poverty and underachievement by focusing on students who are trapped in chronically failing schools.

As parents, we take the education of New Jersey’s children very seriously, and we recognize that reforms need to be made to the charter school process. That’s why we supported legislation to require voter approval of charter schools. It’s also why we support increased transparency in the charter school process, as well as getting tough on charter school applications that contain fraud.

We have heard from many of you on this important issue. Although we did not support and did not have a role in the approval of Regis Academy’s application, which was approved by the Department of Education, we appreciate hearing from our constituents about the issues that affect them.

We will continue to take your suggestions into account as we consider charter school reform in the Legislature. Because educating our kids is just too important an issue to get it wrong.

James Beach, Louis Greenwald and Pamela Lampitt represent Cherry Hill, Voorhees, and thirteen other towns in the New Jersey Legislature.

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