Camden Education Association president's feisty letter against renaissance schools

In anticipation of Monday’s school board meeting (if it happens), the Camden Education Association president put out a feisty letter asking all members to show up and speak out against any more privately run and publicly funded schools in the city.

As I mentioned in my article in today’s Inquirer, officials involved with the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy proposal, which was rejected in September by the Camden Board of Education, were asked to attend Monday's board meeting. None of the people behind three other Renaissance proposals, also rejected Sept. 25, was invited to the meeting, but some plan to attend anyway.

The nine-member board unanimously rejected, with one abstention each, proposals for the Benjamin Franklin Academy, the Camden Center for Youth Development SMARTS Academy, and the Universal Cos. Renaissance School. The KIPP proposal was voted down, 4-4, with one abstention. The application - the most ambitious plan of the four by sketching a plan for a five-school campus - came from the partnership of the Norcross Foundation Inc., a charity created by the family of State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) and his brother George E. Norcross III; the charitable foundation of Cooper, which George Norcross chairs; and one of the nation's largest charter-school operators, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). George Norcross is a managing partner of the company that owns The Inquirer.

The Urban Hope Act, sponsored by Donald Norcross and signed into law by Gov. Christie in January, gave local school board officials the power to approve up to four Renaissance projects each in Camden, Trenton and Newark. Only Camden has considered the measure. Companies can build and operate the schools and receive up to 95 percent of the amount the district would have spent for each student that enrolls in its schools.

In her letter to all union members, Harvey says there is an “excessive number” of charter schools already operating in the city and that approving any more charters or and new renaissance school projects would result in the closing of schools and loss of many jobs.

“We have dedicated our lives to serving young people in this city, and we must not allow politics to interfere with us being able to do our jobs; put food on our table, and a roof over our heads,” the letter states.

Hurricane Sandy could force Monday's board meeting to be canceled. A decision is expected by Sunday evening.

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