Under New Jersey’s charter school law, new charter schools are approved entirely by the state’s Commissioner of Education, currently Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf. Local communities have no decision making power in the current charter school approval process, yet funding comes directly out of local public school budgets.
Acting Commissioner Cerf approved the Regis Academy Charter School application in September 2011. The districts of Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Somerdale and Lawnside are unanimously opposed to the Regis Academy Charter School, but are forced to set aside $2.73 million for Regis’ opening.
We question the diversion of funds from successful districts to an unproven charter operator, especially at a time when budgets are tight and districts are held to a 2% cap. Thousands of school children will lose services and programs to create an unwanted, unneeded charter that proposes to benefit a relative handful of students.
While Regis’ application was approved, they have not yet been granted the final charter they need to open in September 2012. We urge Acting Commissioner Cerf to deny final approval to Regis Academy Charter School on July 15th and not give Regis an additional planning year.
The residents of the effected districts are overwhelmingly opposed to Regis Academy Charter School and will continue to fight to maintain the excellent public schools that are the cornerstone of these communities.
Deny Regis Academy Charter School in Cherry Hill Their Final Charter
I write to you today regarding the approval of the Regis Academy Charter School to Pastor Amir Khan.
Acting Commissioner Cerf, you have said “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when discussing the need for charters in suburban districts that are “humming along.”
Governor Christie, at the January 18th Voorhees Town Hall you said you’d prefer that charter schools open in struggling school districts rather than compete with high-performing schools, such as those in Voorhees and Cherry Hill. You also said that the law prevents you from barring the Regis Academy from opening.
However, Acting Commissioner Cerf CAN deny Regis’ final charter on July 15, 2012. This will prevent Regis from opening in September and the potentially damaging loss of $2.73 million taxpayer dollars from the school budgets of Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Lawnside and Somerdale.
I respectfully request that the Acting Commissioner deny Regis Academy Charter School’s final charter for the following reasons:
Pastor Amir Khan is the Lead Founder and President of the Board of Trustees of the Regis Academy and the Pastor of the Solid Rock Worship Center. Regis and Solid Rock will both be located on the same property, which Pastor Khan intends to purchase from the Catholic Diocese of Camden. The Diocese threatened to evict Solid Rock for non-payment, but the case was settled out of court in June of 2011.
Pastor Khan stated in the Philadelphia Inquirer that he is “anticipating the charter school to get additional income to carry us." It is ill advised to award taxpayer dollars to an unproven charter operator that needs those funds to pay for his current property.
Pastor Khan’s Nehemiah Group is also located on the same property as The Regis Academy Charter School. Nehemiah’s website states they “equip, mentor, counsel, and empower transitional men and women striving to recover from a life of crime and life-controlling problems.” While this is noble work, it is not appropriate to have school children on the same property as ex-offenders.
The Regis Academy Charter School’s application included a fraudulent letter of recommendation from Pastor Jeffrey Bills of Hope United Methodist Church. Pastor Bills notified Acting Commissioner Cerf that the letter was fraudulent and he does not support Regis Academy.
The charter school law requires that qualifying founders be parents of students that attend the public schools of the district or public school teachers in the district. Only one of the qualifying founders noted in the Regis Academy Charter School application meets these eligibility criteria. The other founders, including Pastors Amir and Aughtney Khan, are ineligible to apply for a charter as they are not teachers in the public schools or parents with children in the public schools.
As a taxpayer and concerned citizen I don’t believe funds should be taken from high-performing public school districts and awarded to an unproven charter school operator. Thousands of school children will lose services and programs to create an unwanted, unneeded charter that proposes to benefit a relative handful of students.