Newark Charter School Fund Creates “Charter Compact”
Agreement ensures schools uphold fundamental principles
The compact was developed by the Newark Charter School Fund, a three-year old organization committed to increasing the number of high-quality schools in Newark by improving charter schools, expanding successful schools, and developing promising new schools.
"We believe it is important for the Newark charter schools, the philanthropic community, and key stakeholders in the city to reaffirm their commitment to set of fundamental principles and practices," said Mashea Ashton, the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund. "Any charter that is unable or unwilling to fulfill the terms and spirit of the compact will face the loss of support from the other signatories."
The compact is intended to be both a self-policing mechanism and a way for stakeholders to hold charters the highest standards. Ashton said the charter compact is a first step toward broader school reform efforts to ensure that all students have access to high quality schools.
"Our primary objective is to ensure that every child in Newark is enrolled in a great school, regardless of whether it is operated by the district or under a charter," Ashton said. "We also support the underlying premise of the charter school law that chronically low-performing charter schools should be closed."
As a part of a broader reform effort, the compact is just one step of many that are needed to reach these objectives. More work is needed to implement the compact and work toward a broader compact between the charter schools and the Newark Public Schools District, which will specify the ways in which both charter and the district schools can work together to improve educational opportunities for all Newark students.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he is committed to ensuring Newark's children have the widest range of high quality public school options available.
"I applaud the Newark charter schools and the Newark Charter School Fund for taking a critical step toward serving all students, transparency, and collaboration across charters and with the Newark Public Schools," Mayor Booker said. "Such efforts are needed to ensure that Newark students have access to high quality public school options."
The compact comes on the heels of a recent state Department of Education announcement that it would evaluate all charters' recruitment and enrollment processes to ensure that all students have access to charter schools and consider enrollment policy for charter renewals.
"The promise of charter schools is a commitment to both quality and equality – quality of educational programs and equality of access for all students," said Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. "I am glad to see the charter community in Newark is reaffirming this commitment today and ensuring that they are serving all students, regardless of background, in a way that will prepare them for college and career."
Under the compact, the charter schools, funders and stakeholders would commit to serving all students in the city, especially the highest need students requiring special education services, students who are English Language Learners, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and other underserved or at-risk populations.
Schools would also commit to recruiting and advertising in the widest and most inclusive manner possible and eliminate any process steps or requirements of parents before the charter application and lotteries are completed.
Under the compact, schools would also agree to correct misinformation about any application or lottery requirements for parents.
"As part of this agreement, charters will not be allowed to require families or students to attend information sessions to apply to their schools or enter the lottery," Ashton said. "Charters could offer those informational sessions as an option, but not a requirement."
Charters would also agree to provide multiple ways for charter parents and students to access and complete an application, including posting an application online, a mail-in application, and in-person drop off at the schools.
"We want charters to communicate a clear message that students with special education needs, students who are English Language Learners, and other at-risk students are served by charter schools," Ashton said.
As part of the compact, charters would also agree to provide transparent data in full compliance with the state Department of Education policies regarding the students served by our schools, particularly students with special education needs, students who are English Language learners, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and students in other underserved or at-risk populations.
The compact calls for schools to post data from annual reports to state Department of Education on each charter's website regarding the number and percentage of students served who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, students with special education needs, and students who are English Language Learners.
"We believe this compact will go a long way toward erasing the false perception that Newark's charter schools are somehow different from public schools in terms of accountability, transparency and equity," Ashton said. "Charter schools are public schools that serve students across the city regardless of economic status or learning difficulties. This agreement reaffirms that."