NJ Supreme Court Upholds Commissioner of Education’s Charter School Denial

The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently upheld the New Jersey Commissioner of Education’s (Commissioner) decision to deny Quest Academy’s application to open a charter school in Montclair. The court ruled that “the Commissioner’s decision to deny Quest Academy’s charter school application was amply supported by the record and was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.”

The Facts of the Case

On October 15, 2010, Tracey Williams, on behalf of a group of founders, submitted an application to the Commissioner to open Quest Academy, a proposed charter high school in Montclair. The application was subsequently resubmitted and denied several times. Among the reasons for the denial, the Commissioner cited the ineffectiveness of standalone charter schools, the ability to attract enough students, the existing desegregation order that applies to the Montclair public schools, and community opposition.

In the lawsuit that followed, the Appellate Division affirmed the Commissioner’s denial. It found that the Commissioner’s denial of Quest Academy’s application was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.

The Court’s Decision

The state’s highest court ultimately sided with the Commissioner in IMO Proposed Quest Academy Charter School of Montclair Founders Group. “There is no right to operate a charter school,” the court held. “There is only the opportunity to apply for approval to operate if the application demonstrates proper merit.”

The court further concluded that the arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable standard of review is applicable to the Commissioner’s decision to grant or deny a charter school application. In this case, the Commissioner’s decision to deny Quest Academy’s charter school application was amply supported by the record.

“Case law has recognized the value that administrative expertise can play in making predictive or judgmental determinations. The Commissioner’s decision demonstrates a thoughtful and thorough weighing and judgment of the merits of Quest Academy’s application and does not warrant judicial intervention,” the panel added.

For more information about this case or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.

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