July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Ethics complaint filed against Rutgers professor

The NJ Charter School Association has filed an ethics complaint against a Rutgers professor who earlier this year published a study on the demographics of the state's charter schools.

Julia Sass Rubin, an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, published a study in October entitled “New Jersey Charter Schools: A Data-Driven View" that found that students with learning disabilities, limited English proficiency or those who come from low-income households are underrepresented in New Jersey’s charter schools.

The complaint, filed Monday with New Jersey State Ethics Commission, charged Rubin with violating the State’s Conflict of Interest Law and Uniform Ethics Code, as well as the University’s Code and Policies for faculty employees.

The NJ Charter Schools Association complaint claimed that Rubin violated the Rutgers policy on lobbying and advocacy by identifying herself as a Rutgers professor in editorials, at public meetings and during testimonies in front of legislative bodies.

The complaint alleged that as founder and current chair of Save Our Schools New Jersey, Rubin used her position, title and University resources to “wage a personally driven lobbying and public relations campaign against New Jersey’s public charter schools ... in support of SOSNJ’s advocacy goals.”

Her study was funded by SOSNJ but released under the auspices of Rutgers University as academic research, the complaint reads.

Rubin's report outlined four solutions to the demographic disparity, which included implementing a weighted lottery and creating a penalty for charter schools that did not match 90 percent of their host district’s composition.

Michael Turner, spokesperson for the New Jersey Charter School Association, said Rubin is using her position as an associate professor at Rutgers to add validity to her report’s argument.

“In the mind of many legislators and the public, that carries weight,” Turner said. “Rutgers University has earned respect through years of the work they’ve done and graduates they’ve produced. Rubin is trading on that name.”

But Rubin is pushing back, claiming that the NJ Charter Schools Association has edited part of the Rutgers Lobbying and Advocacy Policy to change its meaning. 

“Every example of my writing or testimony that they [NJCSA] used to create their complaint is on the list of communications that Rutgers does not consider to be lobbying,” she said.

But Turner called the report Rubin’s "personal agenda," and said it should not be considered Rutgers' agenda as well.

Rubin is planning on publishing two more reports in the future, which the NJ Charter School Association hopes to halt with this ethics complaint.

Rubin said her research is important in addressing a negative result of charter school demographic disparity: More expensive students are being concentrated in public schools, making it more difficult to provide a high-quality education.

But according to an op-ed by Rick Pressler, president of the NJCSA, New Jersey has 87 public charter schools, which educate nearly 40,000 students. Those students, like their urban public school peers, are “overwhelmingly poor and minority.”

“No school district matches the demographic of the community to which they serve,” Turner said. “To say that charter schools are lacking in representative demographics is being less than truthful.”

Since the publication of the report, Rubin said she has repeatedly reached out to NJCSA and invited them to work together to identify ways to address this demographics problem.

“When she [Rubin] comes up with a valid solution that she thinks has merit, we’ll be more than happy to entertain the prospect,” Turner said.

Avalon Zoppo

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