With news that 10 Uncommon and Mastery Schools have been approved for Camden, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Camden School District is being dishonest with the Camden residents. The district has repeatedly assured parents and students that traditional schools were not closing or at risk. That’s simply not possible with close to 7,000 students being moved to Uncommon and Mastery Schools.* So why mislead about school closures? Because, as we’ve seen in Newark, communities will rally around their schools once they are threatened. It’s easier just to open new schools, claim it is about providing additional quality options, than enact closures based on projected deficits. The strategy was just successful for firing over 200 teachers.
Here’s more on the news from the Education Law Center:
As a result of the Commissioner’s approvals, the private KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon charter chains will operate 15 schools serving 64% of all Camden schoolchildren. On June 30, the Legislature rushed through an amendment to the Urban Hope Act that extends for another year the Commissioner’s authority to approve one additional charter organization to open even more schools. As a result, the KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon organizations – and a likely fourth charter chain – will be primarily responsible for educating Camden schoolchildren for generations to come.
The Commissioner’s action will also have a major impact on the State-operated Camden district, relegating the district to the task of transferring funding to Mastery, KIPP and Uncommon, while attempting to educate, with a severely diminished budget, those students the charters are either unwilling or unable to serve.
As Mastery, KIPP and Uncommon open schools and increase enrollments, the State-operated district will be forced to close many, if not most, of the 26 schools currently in operation. The State in recent months closed two charter schools that had been serving Camden neighborhoods for many years. It is likely that more of these “homegrown” charters will also be closed.
*It may be true that schools are not closing this year. But I’ve written before about how the promises have been vague enough to mislead parents and students into thinking schools aren’t closing at all.