|By Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
NEWARK — A New Jersey charter school ordered to shut down at the end of June may close its doors without paying the final two months of teachers’ salaries, state and local union leaders say.
Teachers at Merit Preparatory Charter School in Newark are not unionized and have individual employment contracts stipulating they work during the 10-month school year and have their paychecks spread out over the 12-month calendar year, according to the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey chapter.
Some of those teachers’ contracts began in September 2016 and run through August 2017, with as much as $12,000 per teacher scheduled to be paid over July and August, the union said.
The school, however, has informed teachers they will not receive their scheduled paychecks in July and August after it closes on June 30, a breach of teacher’s contracts, said John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union.
“The bottom line is these people are employees in the state of New Jersey, they worked and they are owed and entitled to this money,” said Abeigon, who along with the AFT-NJ is helping the teachers try to secure their full pay though they are not union members.
The case underscores a lack of accountability in charter schools run by outside management companies, said Nat Bender, the AFT-NJ’s spokesman.
“If they do not pay the teachers what they have earned, who is responsible?” Bender asked.
Earlier this month, AFT-NJ president Donna Chiera sent a letter to acting state Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington asking the state to compel Merit Prep to pay its teachers.
“Legal action action against Matchbook Learning could be costly and at (teachers’) own expense,” Chiera wrote. “They reached out to us seeking assistance through a channel where they could voice concerns without fear of retaliation.”