State Agency Reverses Itself On Jumoke After-School Programs
January 13, 2009
The state Department of Public Health Monday said it won't enforce a cease-and-desist order for the preschool and after-school programs at Jumoke Academy, a Hartford charter school. The decision follows Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's letter last week that said the order would not hold up in court.
"There is no practical reason or policy justification to require licenses for charter schools," Blumenthal wrote Jan. 7 to Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin.
The department had asked Jumoke to halt its after-school programs because it believed the charter school, which gets state funding but is operated independently, required a state license to operate such programs, which are considered day care by the state. Public and private schools are exempt from the state's day-care licensing requirement. "Prior to the attorney general's clarifying letter, we understood the school was not exempted and therefore required a license. And our role is to protect the health and safety of children, which is a responsibility we take extremely seriously," said William Gerrish, a spokesman for the public health department.
Jumoke's chief executive, Michael Sharpe, had balked at the order, refusing to close the programs while he sought clarification of the law.
Sharpe said the decision relieved officials at other charter schools, who were worried they would be affected by similar orders. Gerrish said the department would not require other charter schools to obtain day-care licenses.
"I was just absolutely amazed at the tremendous amount of public support," Sharpe said. "[But] I was really disturbed that people who work in government who are supposed to serve the public will sort of make these random decisions that negatively affect the public."
The public health department based its actions on an earlier informal opinion from the attorney general's office that said charter schools "have elements of both public and private schools," but "do not appear to exactly conform to the child-care licensing exemption requirements for either public or private schools."
The opinion did not specifically say that charter schools should require licenses to operate programs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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