Newark Charter in violation of law? Probably.

Head on over to the inimitable (and invaluable) Kilroy’s Delaware and read a copy of a letter from the ACLU to the State Department of Education regarding Newark Charter School’s expansion request to grades 9-12. Funny. The ACLU perfectly — and more eloquently — captures exactly what many of us have been saying for weeks: It’s abundantly clear that Newark Charter School is operating outside of current charter school law. By granting Newark Charter’s request for expansion, the State Department of Education is absolutely co-signing on this continued law breaking.

So, what law is the school breaking? Oh just the one that says the school has to comply with the “legal requirement of providing free and reduced lunch to students eligible under the applicable state and federal laws.” In NCS’s original charter application years ago, the school said it would meet those federal and state requirements by contracting with a provider like Aramark. It seems that was a short-lived affair.

What fascinates me most, though, is DoE’s continued renewal of NCS’s charter application TWICE even though they failed during both renewals to show they were following the above law. In 2004, NCS claimed keeping the free and reduced lunch program was “no longer viable,” so they told the state they’d go with outside vendors “such as McDonald’s” to fill the requirement. McDonald’s meals, though, don’t meet the federal requirement. I guess McNuggets, fries, and Shamrock Shakes don’t constitute a balanced meal. Oh, and the fact that the 2004 renewal application claimed the school doesn’t have a cafeteria didn’t arouse some suspicions among the folk at DoE?

In its next renewal application in 2008, NCS proposed no changes in its provision of meals. Lovely. No argument from DoE, apparently.

So, what we have here is a school violating the law. It’s quite explicit. The school is violating the law. As a consequence of its violation of the law, they’re leaving out a large group of children who should be eligible, but perhaps don’t sign on because of the lack of free and reduced lunch.

Here’s what I want to know: Considering there MUST have been individuals within the school’s five-mile-radius attendance zone that would absolutely qualify for free and reduced lunch, what was the process for explaining this lack of a cafeteria…this lack of food services…this LACK OF FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH to the potential incoming families?

You see where I’m going with this? I’d like to know who knew what and who knew it when. When were these families told and were they made aware of the law requiring the school to provide these services?

The deal is done. From what I’ve heard, NCS’s charter expansion will be approved. Good for them. But they must be called to task for this absolutely outrageous violation of the law that has gone on for 11 years.