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Commissioner Christopher Cerf: Deny Hatikvah International Academy Charter School's Expansion Request And Stop The Runaway Expansion of Segregating, Boutique Charter Schools In New Jersey

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Under New Jersey’s undemocratic charter school law, charter school expansions wreak havoc on districts drawn into expansion plans. Case in point; the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School was only approved to serve students in East Brunswick. Therefore only East Brunswick was notified of Hatikvah’s expansion request, and only East Brunswick is afforded the opportunity to respond to the State regarding the expansion. 

Yet currently Hatikvah draws students from an astounding 21 districts in 6 counties; in essence Hatikvah has become a de facto statewide charter school. This leaves 20 districts without a voice in a process that can negatively impact their budget. 

Hatikvah’s waiting list reveals that another 16 districts have students awaiting admission, and again, Hatikvah is not required to notify these districts that they may lose funds due to Hatikvah’s expansion plans.

If approved by the state, Hatikvah will add a middle school to their existing K-5 charter to ultimately serve grades K-8. They will also expand from 2 classes per grade to 3 classes per grade (an increase from 50 -75 students). The net effect is that in the next five years Hatikvah will more than double in size. 

Education Commissioner Cerf himself has said that a charter should fulfill an “unmet need” in a community.

“I am much more sympathetic to a charter application if there are kids that are not being educated, and the charter applicant makes a credible case that it has a solution that will fill that need.” 

Hatikvah has not demonstrated that there is an unmet need in the East Brunswick public schools, and in fact Hatikvah’s curriculum has now “morphed in many ways into a mirror of the curriculum in the eight East Brunswick elementary schools,” according to the East Brunswick School District

Commissioner Cerf further clarified that an “unmet need means that there are children who are being underserved in terms of their basic educational rights.” Yet Hatikvah is segregating our public schools by taking far fewer Special Education, Limited English Proficient, low-income and minority students than East Brunswick or any other affected district. This not only demonstrates that Hatikvah is not fulfilling an “unmet need” but makes all comparisons between the performance of the charter and the sending districts invalid. 

Clearly Hatikvah has become a segregated, boutique charter school. 

Commissioner Cerf is the sole decider of whether Hatikvah may expand, forcing our local public schools to turnover additional needed resources to Hatikvah, likely requiring the loss of additional programs and/or staff. Hatikvah cannot be allowed to continue their statewide expansion, to continue to segregate our communities and to continue to usurp scarce district resources.

When viewed from the perspective of what is best for the majority of public school students, there is no justification for this charter school to expand.

Please sign the petition insisting that Commissioner Cerf consider the facts and deny Hatikvah’s request for expansion.

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