The New Jersey Education Association is asking state education commissioner David Hespe to rescind his approval of the private takeover of four public schools in Camden.
The takeover would result in the schools being reopened as so-called “Renaissance Schools,” which have described as hybrid charter schools.
The teachers union contends that the plan for closing the schools and converting them to Renaissance Schools violates the state’s Urban Hope Act, which sets forth the process for establishing Renaissance Schools.
The law states that Renaissance Schools are allowed to open only in newly constructed buildings or substantially renovated facilities.
“The school district is attempting to circumvent the terms and spirit of the Urban Hope Act to allow the corporate takeover of Camden Public Schools,” says NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer. “The district is merely waiting until the end of the school year to do superficial renovations, at which time it will simply call these schools Renaissance Schools so they can be turned over to private management companies.”
The affected schools are Bonsall Elementary School, Molina Elementary School, McGraw Elementary School, and East Camden Middle School.
The Camden district has announced that Bonsall will become Camden Prep Bonsall Elementary; East Camden Middle will become Mastery: East Camden; McGraw will become Mastery: McGraw; and Molina will become Mastery: Molina.
The Urban Hope Act passed in 2012 and provided Camden, Trenton, and Newark an opportunity to open up to four Renaissance Schools. Camden is the only one that pursued the option. A Renaissance School is approved by the school board and must enroll students from the local neighborhood.
The union contends in a news release that that the closures and transfers of the four schools are being carried out improperly and without the input of stakeholders.
“Parents deserve to have a say before their children are transferred to a Renaissance School, and students and teachers have the right to be treated with fairness and dignity,” says Steinhauer. “All of the people who are directly impacted by these decisions were left out of the conversation.”