New Jersey charter schools advocates say students in those schools do better on academic testing, charter schools are cheaper to run and thousands of Garden State families are on waiting lists, but the Murphy administration won’t permit charter schools to expand, or more of them to open.

Harry Lee, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Public Charter School Association, said that when you look at the denial that schools receive they read like an approval letter until the last sentence.

“What the charter community is asking for is a fair shot. The Department of Education should be calling balls and strikes based on clear, objective criteria and that hasn’t happened,” said Lee.

He said blocking the expansion of charter schools is disrespectful to Black and Latino parents.

“The mental and financial toll that these decisions have on our families was overwhelming and our children deserve to attend excellent schools that are working for them, and that they love.”

Lee said charter school advocates have the same goal as the Department of Education.

“Let’s make sure that every child has access to a great public school that meets their individual needs, and excellent high-quality public charter schools are definitely part of the solution.”

He pointed out charter school students in Newark now outperform the state average in New Jersey for reading and math.

Children running through hallway
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Gov. Murphy on charter schools

He added the governor has stated he supports high-quality top-performing schools regardless of school type, but “unfortunately many of the decisions that are coming out of the Department of Education do not align with these statements.”

There are 85 charter schools in New Jersey, serving 60,000 students, and 20,000 students are on waiting lists.

“This is really about self-determination for our families, and to deny Black and Latino families opportunities to attend excellent public charter schools that are life-changing for their children is both wrong and really devastating to our families,” he said.

When the governor’s office was asked to comment on why the administration has blocked the expansion of charter schools, and whether this decision has anything to do with the New Jersey Education Association teachers union, press secretary Alyana Alfaro Post issued the following statement:

“Charter schools are an important part of New Jersey’s education community. Each charter school application is considered on a case-by-case basis by which the DOE weighs a number of factors including community demand, existing enrollment, quality of education, and fiscal impact for the district as a whole.”

New Jersey Department of Education spokesman Mike Yaple said “of the 23 charter-school expansion requests that the New Jersey Department of Education received in the 2021-2022 school year, the NJDOE approved 14 charter-school expansion requests and denied nine.”

He noted that “every charter decision is extensively evaluated comprehensively based on a number of factors. The Commissioner of Education has an obligation to examine the merits of each request to ensure that all public school options in New Jersey represent the educational standard and outcomes in the best interests of students.”

Charter schools are public tuition-free schools open to all students within a given district, and there are no tests or admissions criteria to get into them, but they run on contracts with the New Jersey Department of Education.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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