New Jersey State Supreme Court Opposes Public Interest, Endorses Segregated Charter Schools

Consistent with an antisocial neoliberal outlook, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled on June 22, 2021 that seven segregated charter schools in Newark can continue to expand. While the court made some perfunctory statements suggesting that it was critical of the well-documented harm caused by privately-operated charter schools, everyone knows that this is a win for major owners of capital and a loss for public schools and the public interest. No one believes city and state officials will take any serious action to reverse the increased segregation caused by privately-operated charter schools run by unelected individuals. A pro-social human-centered decision would have said no to charter school expansion, upheld the public interest, and defended public schools. The public does not need more deregulated charter schools, which is why opposition to these non-transparent contract schools keeps growing.

It is well-known that charter schools hurt the public interest by depriving public schools of funds, increasing segregation, being non-transparent, fostering corruption, and delivering poor academic results.

Currently, privately-operated charter schools in Newark siphon more than $260 million a year from the Newark Public School District. That is a huge loss which results in cuts to many valuable programs and services serving thousands of poor and low-income minority families. This assault on minority families comes, ironically, at a time when the nation is affirming Juneteenth.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruling reflects a continuing trend in which courts across the country are increasingly upholding a neoliberal outlook in their decisions. Courts across the country continue to impose capital-centered interests on society while dismissing human-centered interests. When it comes to cases like these, the courts clearly favor narrow private interests. To be sure, all the main levers of state power in society are becoming more neoliberal at this time, which spells more danger ahead for the public interest.

It is worth noting that most New Jersey charter schools are deunionized and, like private businesses, they were able to double-dip into Federal CARES Funding. Public schools were not.

Equally troubling, over the years 20 New Jersey charter schools have had their charters revoked, 10 have “voluntarily surrendered their charter,” and nearly 20 more have not had their charters renewed.  That is a lot of failure and disappointment in a short period of time. Is this what successful education “innovation” looks like? Who supports schools that open and close frequently? These deregulated schools run by unelected officials have left thousands of minority families high and dry while making a handful of people richer. How does this combat racism and inequality?

Pro-social forces are determined to keep opposing the privatization of public schools. Society does not need more rich individuals, charter school corporations, and non-educators destroying public schools and undermining the common good. Public schools must remain under public control at all times and not be outsourced to those who want to cash in on kids.

According to the New Jersey Department of Education, as of May 2019 there were about 52,000 students enrolled in 88 charter schools in New Jersey. More than 90% of the 36,000+ students who attend the Newark Public School District are minorities. The city’s poverty rate currently exceeds 27%.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.