Trenton Education Association Spars With NJEA on Charter School

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Trenton Education Association union officials cannot see the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) decision to support charter schools is simply a power play to grab keep members, and for the time being, nonmembers. David Foster has the story in the Trentonian.

But there is an all-out war brewing in the capital city between the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the Trenton Education Association (TEA), which is the capital city teachers union.

NJEA recently signed on to support the International Academy of Trenton Charter School (IAT), which is facing closure of the end of June due to poor performance. Teachers at IAT unionized within the past year and they are represented by NJEA — one of only 17 charters schools in New Jersey to be aligned with the state’s powerful union.

“The opening and closing of charters in the City of Trenton is a racial and social justice issue, because real harm is being done to our students, local school system and our community,” TEA President Naomi Johnson-Lafleur said Friday. “For more than two decades, the opening and closing of charter schools have resulted in gaps in learning, impeding the academic progress of black and brown children in urban districts like Trenton. That is why the Trenton Education Association is appalled and shocked that NJEA President Marie Blistan has decided to sign-on to an appeal of the closing of International Academy of Trenton Charter School in Trenton.”

IAT was informed earlier this year that it would be stripped of its charter effective June 30 by the New Jersey Department of Education for poor student performance and classroom mismanagement.

The charter school is appealing the decision with the help of NJEA. IAT’s representatives think it will be successful.

In a statement, NJEA spokesman Steve Baker confirmed the union represents the employees at IAT.

“We support our members in their effort to keep their school open,” Baker said in an email.

TEA members said they were blind sided by the news on Friday.

Johnson-Lafleur pointed to a March 29 interview on NJTV news where Blistan stated “(Charter schools) are not held accountable to quality continuum standards that we have in this state, and that’s very important because that covers the instruction that the children receive. It covers the resource they receive.”

IAT has an uphill battle to save the school.

No school in the state’s history has won an appeal to overturn the loss of a charter.

What troubles TEA the most is the impact a reversal will have on Trenton Public Schools. The district has experienced massive layoffs, privatization and school closures in recent years due to the expansion of charter schools.