Suit seeks to derail Camden Renaissance schools

Julia Terruso:

A group of Camden public school advocates and parents has filed a lawsuit against the state education commissioner, saying he did not properly assess the “financial and segregative impact” of approving two Renaissance schools to open in the city.

Mastery and Uncommon Schools were approved July 7 by acting Commissioner David Hespe and opened elementary schools earlier this month.

Save Our Schools New Jersey, a group that has frequently been critical of the new administration of the state-run district, has asked Hespe to rescind his approval of the schools.

The lawsuit claims the Renaissance schools would drain traditional public schools of needed funds and exclude disabled and minority students – an impact they say the commissioner failed to consider in his one-page approval.

Mastery and Uncommon, along with KIPP, which was approved in 2012, have contracts with the district to collectively serve more than 9,000 students in the district of 15,000 by 2024.

Of the 15,000 students, 11,500 currently are in traditional public schools and 3,500 are in charter schools.

“The schools must not be allowed to open . . . under a cloud of constitutional and statutory uncertainty,” said Princeton-based attorney Richard E. Shapiro in a letter to Hespe days before the suit.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 21, but Save Our Schools member and Camden mother MoNeke Ragsdale, one of three people named as complainants in the suit, said the group wanted to wait until after the school year started to announce the legal action.

via Laura Waters