I posted earlier today about Chris Christie’s poison pill for Newark, having approved in advance of his retirement an additional 7,000 charter spaces on the basis of a long waiting list.

Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin explains that the current charter schools have openings, and the wait list is a myth:

If current patterns hold, many of the Newark charter school seats approved by Governor Christie are unlikely to be filled by Newark residents because there appears to be an oversupply of charter seats for the level of demand in Newark.

Over the last four years, Newark residents have filled only about 80% of the approved seats in Newark charter schools. This may have been a factor in the Christie Administration’s decision to close several Newark charter schools last year, as doing so would create more demand for the remaining charter schools.

This pattern of weak demand for charter schools is also seen in other New Jersey cities with large charter enrollments.

The data showing a gap between supply and demand throws into question the claims of a 35,000 student waitlist that the NJ charter industry has used to push back against any slow down in approvals. The 35,000 figure is self-reported and unverified. It is created by the charter school trade association. If a student’s family applies to 10 charter schools, the waitlist would count her as ten students. Analysis of specific individual charter waitlists also confirms that they may include students who have moved away or who applied in prior years and are no longer interested.

Mark Weber and I will be releasing a second charter school research report next month that goes into greater detail on these and related issues.