The Ethical Community Charter School's founders received a call from the state's Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy on Jan. 15, rejecting their charter due to not having a "viable financial plan."
This scuttled their plans to open the school next fall.
In the 1990s, New Jersey passed a law allowing educators and community members to apply to the state to run their own school. The schools are public but operate under a charter granted by the Commissioner of Education, and get most of their state funding from the local Board of Education.
The charter is a document that states the guiding philosophy of the school, explains the community need for the school, and sets out a four-year operating budget.
Jersey City already has nine existing charter schools. Hoboken has the other two in the county.
The charter for the Ethical Community Charter School was submitted in August of last year, one of 22 applications from across the state.
According to the state Department of Education, only seven out of those 22 were invited to an interview with the state's Department of Education. One of those was the Ethical Community Charter School.
Ann Wallace, a resident of Jersey City's Heights section, said last week, "They asked on some financial details, but nothing major. They praised our application in the first interview."
She added, "But now we received the rejection letter, and you wonder what happened between November and January."
However, the ethical school is not alone. Only one of the 22 applicants for a state charter was accepted for this year.
And there is some hope for the school.
Wallace said they are planning to meet with the state on either Jan. 30 or 31 to find out why their application was rejected. And the group can apply again by March 31, possibly enabling the Ethical Community Charter School to open in fall of 2009.An 'ethical' school
The Ethical Community Charter School would be operated according to the guidelines set down by the New York City-based Ethical Community Charter School Foundation, which is behind the formation of the school.
The foundation's goal, as stated on their website (www.teccs.org), is to create a school that "will serve the children of families that embrace the ideals of ethics, service, and social justice, and will provide a well-rounded education of academic studies, the arts, and the practical skills."
Wallace said the school would start with six classes of students enrolled in the kindergarten and first grade, a total of 120 students in the school's first year. Then in following years, new classes would be formed up to the fourth grade, as outlined in the school's charter.
The school can go to the state to renew their initial charter for another five years, which could mean further expansion up to eighth grade. Many parents interested
Wallace said if the charter had been approved for next fall, the school would likely have opened in the Journal Square area. And she said they would not have had a problem getting students.
"We have so many parents who are still inquiring about when the school because they haven't heard the news yet," Wallace said.
She said many parents have been turned down for admission to the nearby Learning Community Charter School on Canal Street in downtown Jersey City, because there is not enough room.
Shelley Skinner, director of development and Outreach for Learning Community, elaborated on Wallace's comments by explaining that the school held a lottery on January for 26 open kindergarten spots and one open spot in the fourth grade. There were 238 children vying for those spots.
Skinner was also looking forward to seeing the Ethical Community Charter School open, as she was an early supporter of the idea.
"It's a shame that didn't open for this fall, as they are so many kids across the city on waiting lists for charter schools," Skinner said. "We need more schools like [Ethical Community]. We need more schools period." State response
Department of Education Spokesperson Rich Vespucci said last week they "normally do not talk in detail" about why applications are rejected, only to offer that none of the applications "were rejected with prejudice."
He said the reasons are spelled out when the applicant is contacted, and they are welcome to discuss them further with the state.
Vespucci said the charter application can be resubmitted by March 31, and applicants will be contacted by September to find out if their charter was accepted or not. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org