Saturday, March 30, 2019


Central Jersey Arts Charter School was struggling, but kept getting tax money

New Jersey kept sending tax money to troubled charter school and its building project


A series in five parts

Millions of NJ tax dollars were used by Central Jersey Arts Charter School, which was put on probation for a host of deficiencies.

By 2010, four years after it opened, the Central Jersey Arts Charter School in Plainfield was in trouble.
The state had just put it on probation for a host of deficiencies, ordering it to limit spending, develop a curriculum and address problems with its board and student achievement.  
Yet little more than three weeks later, a state agency voted to issue bonds that allowed a fledgling nonprofit called the Friends of Central Jersey Arts Charter School to borrow $8.2 million to buy and renovate a building for the school to rent and, one day, potentially own.
It was a loan whose repayment was based on the tax dollars flowing to the public charter school.
The Friends quickly ran out of cash, and about six months later approached a different state agency seeking millions of dollars in additional financing to finish the project without explaining why they had come up short. The next year, another $1.7 million in bonds were issued, this time with the federal government picking up most of the interest.
While the Friends were permitted to borrow nearly $10 million, the school itself was floundering. A financial report covering the 2010-11 school year stated that Central Jersey Arts was “not in good financial condition” and raised “substantial doubt” about its survival.
The building opened with fanfare as contractors went unpaid. The next year, the school was back on probation, where it stayed until the state shut it down in 2015 for weak finances and “dismal” academic performance — but not before dumping more taxpayer cash into a now-defunct for-profit management company in the hope of turning it around.
This is the story of a charter school that failed, and a building that used up millions in public dollars and continued to receive federal aid long after it was left vacant. It’s a story about dubious decisions by multiple state agencies, one that raises questions about the use of public money and the oversight of private groups that own real estate for public charter schools. CONTINUE READING: Central Jersey Arts Charter School was struggling, but kept getting tax money