Governor Visits Charter Schools, Sidesteps Questions on Revenue Projections, Atlantic City

By David Cruz

With members of the legislative branch of state government seemingly ready to duel at sunrise, the state’s chief executive has worked hard to appear above the fray, touring the state on a late-in-the-administration victory lap, touting pet policies like today, charter school expansion.

“2016 marks the 20th anniversary of charter schools in New Jersey and in this administration we’ve expanded these charter schools more than any other administration,” he told students and parents gathered in the gymnasium of Bergen Arts and Science Charter High School in Hackensack.

Like Bergen A&S, which began in 2007 as a K to 5 elementary school in Garfield and now enrolls more than 3,000 kids in three counties in North Jersey. Here, kids are experimenting with robotics and reviving ’60s musicals like “The Apple Tree”.

All in the former Holy Trinity School in Hackensack, which, according to administrator Dawn Fantasia, is bursting at the seams and in need of new facilities. She hopes the governor will help to make that happen by following through on his promise to cut charter school regs.

“Right now charters aren’t guaranteed facilities funding and it makes it very, very difficult, so we would like to see as we progress and move forward a little bit more money available to us for facilities funding that is available to traditional public schools,” said Fantasia, chief growth officer at iLearn Schools.

That’s something supporters of traditional public schools are fighting against. Any money that goes to charters is money that traditional public schools don’t get.

“It gets involved in a lot of politics sometimes over time,” said the governor, “which is unfortunate because, in the end, what this is really about is giving families the opportunities they want for their children.”

Senior Abigail Yashiro is headed to Rutgers in the fall. She is one of only two students in the state chosen to participate in the United States Senate Youth Program in Washington D.C. this summer, a distinction she shares with young Chris Christie — Livingston High School class of 1980. The two finally met today.

“And actually I wrote the letter inviting him, so that’s funny to hear,” she chuckled, “but it is really such a great honor to have him finally come here because I really think we have come a long way as a charter thanks to all the support we’ve had from Gov. Chris Christie.”

With all that’s happening in the State House and elsewhere around the state, the governor has chosen to again avoid reporter questions, content to talk about apples, while everyone else is trying to talk about oranges.