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Administration Promotes Charter School Applicants to Next Round

Of nine hopefuls that applied to Department of Education, four are advanced to final round

Department of Education Building

The Christie administration has winnowed down its list of applicants for new charter schools in 2014 to four organizations, including an existing private school and a Philadelphia-based network of alternative schools.

Nine organizations applied to the state Department of Education for the expedited process that is reserved for established organizations, allowing them to open by next fall, if approved.

The state alerted the four organizations last month that they had qualified for the next round, and all of them submitted revised applications by Friday’s deadline.

The four are the following:

  • College Achieve Central Charter School (serving Plainfield), K-12, 1,748 students

  • Dream Academy Charter School (serving Newark), PreK-8, for 720 students

  • Excellence Charter School (serving Camden), K-12, 1,944 students

  • Link Community Charter School (serving Newark, East Orange, Orange, Irvington), 5-8, 288 students

Link is a private school located in Newark’s Central Ward, and, if approved, would be the second private-to-charter conversion in the state. Philips Academy in Newark was the first when it converted last year.

State officials said the Link application was initially not approved for the second phase, but was permitted back in after it filed an amended application.

The state did reject the conversion application of another Newark private school, the Affirmation Academy. It also rejected a separate application for a new charter school in Bridgeton.

Excellence Charter School -- part of the Mastery charter school network out of Philadelphia -- is seeking to make its first foray into New Jersey. It was approved once already, but withdrew its plans after it failed to secure facilities.

Mastery is also expected to file an application to open schools in Camden under the state’s Urban Hope Act, a new law that defines a different kind of charter school, one that operates within the confines of the district but is also eligible for greater funding. Those applications are due in early January.

The other two applications are also noteworthy. The Dream Academy Charter School would be affiliated with the Brick Academy Schools program in Newark, which is already collaborating with two district schools. The College Achieve Central Charter School would be led by the same group that founded the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas.

The final decisions on the four applicants are due in February, officials said.

The expedited process has become a central pipeline for the administration as it scales back approvals of first-time applicants through a separate, longer process.

In October, the state approved just three of 38 applicants through that process, in which schools have a longer ramp-up and won't open until 2015.

The latest decisions come as the state’s application process comes under legal challenge.

The state Supreme Court is expected today to release its decision in a challenge filed by the founders of the proposed Quest Academy Charter School in Montclair as to whether the process is held to an “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable” standard of review.

Quest Academy has been turned down by the state six times, despite what it contends were repeated steps to address the state’s objections.

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