Christie Signs Bill Privatizing Some Schools in New Jersey

The line between ‘public’ and ‘private’ schools in New Jersey seems to have become a little more difficult to distinguish. Gov. Chris Christie signed  the so-called Urban Hope Act into law on Thursday, enabling some private companies to build and manage up to a dozen schools in Trenton, Newark, and Camden.

Christie proposed the idea last June, which would allow nonprofit organizations to operate a type of charter school referred to as ‘renaissance schools.’ “The nonprofits have to have experience operating schools in low-achieving districts and commit to both building a new school and offering a rigorous academic program designed to prepare each student to be college- or career-ready,” Christie said.

The Urban Hope Act, also known as A-4426, establishes a pilot project. Although some have expressed concern about the “privatization of public education,” both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill. Senator Shirley Turner, whose district includes Trenton, was quoted in a news report saying, “I am adamantly opposed to privatizing education. This could very well open the door to privatization of education,” but added, “the city of Trenton would decide if they want to be in this program.”

Trenton Mayor Tony F. Mack, however, released a statement on Monday opposing an amendment that added Trenton to the list of cities eligible for the new privately operated schools. Mack predicted the bill would “drain crucial resources from the Trenton Public School District.”

The New Jersey Education Association also supported The Urban Hope Act. NJEA President Barbara Keshishian explained, “The Urban Hope Act is an innovative effort to improve educational outcomes for children in some of our most challenging educational settings.  NJEA supports this legislation because it allows for innovation while providing meaningful public accountability. It is a creative expansion of public school choice that uses public funds to support public education.”