South Jersey community waits to see if its new charter will pass muster

The fight over a proposed charter school in Cherry Hill, New Jersey is heating up.

Regis Academy Charter School, to be run by the Solid Rock Worship Center, got initial approval from the Department of Education last year. It would pull kids from the Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Lawnside and Somerdale districts.    Jeanine Martin of Voorhees isn’t wild about public education dollars going to a church-run charter school. “We live in Voorhees because of the school system,” said Martin. The mother of three has collected almost 2,500 signatures urging the Education Department to block Regis from opening.  Martin says she doesn’t want her school to cut corners just so a new charter can open. “When Regis was approved, Voorhees was told to set aside $2 million of its budget for kids that may want to go to this Charter school. So, we knew that that was going to cut teachers and services,” said Martin. “There’s no way they could cover their costs and educate our kids to the way that they have.” Solid Rock Pastor Amir Khan says his kids and grand kids attend Voorhees schools, too. But just because schools are high-performing doesn’t mean they’re for everyone.  “We believe that one size doesn’t fit. We believe that every parent should be able to have school choice,” said Khan. “There is room for growth, there is room for innovation. We don’t believe that public schools should be a monopoly.” Kahn says his school and his church are totally separate. “Am I a pastor? Absolutely. Do we pastor a great church named solid rock worship center? Absolutely. But every entity is separate,” said Khan. “If a person chooses to have a big facility and multiple organizations running out of it, why should [it] be punished?” Solid Rock is also involved in a dispute that could lead to it being evicted from the building it rents from the Catholic Diocese of Camden. But Khan says deal with the Diocese has been struck, and will settle in the next few weeks.   A decision from the Department of Education is due by July 15th.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.