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CHARTER SCHOOL REFORM BILL ADVANCES

The Assembly Education Committee took an important step forward last month when members overwhelmingly voted to support proposed legislation to improve accountability and oversight of New Jersey's charter schools. The bill (A3356), sponsored by Essex County Assemblyman Albert Coutinho and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, amends the State's existing charter school law to ensure that charters operate effectively and equitably. The bill also would improve transparency in charter school operations and strengthen the NJ Department of Education's oversight responsibilities.

Assembly Bill 3356 would:

  • increase reporting requirements; charters would be required to report annually on student demographics, the number and demographic characteristics of students on waiting lists, and the number and subsequent educational placements of students who leave charters mid-year through withdrawal or disciplinary action; in addition, charter schools would be required to provide more detailed budget information, including grants, money and in-kind donations from private and philanthropic sources;
  • allow district boards of education and charter schools to develop and implement collaborative education programs and shared services to advance district-wide educational improvement;
  • improve NJDOE evaluations by requiring the Commissioner of Education to publicly issue a written annual assessment of charter school performance and provide the results of a charter's renewal evaluation in writing to the charter school at least six months prior to the decision;
  • expand the grounds on which the Commissioner can revoke a charter to include persistent failure to meet core curriculum content standards or performance benchmarks, fiscal mismanagement, and discrimination;
  • outline steps to be taken by a school whose charter has been revoked, including parental notification, transfer of student records, and an independent financial audit following closure;
  • require charters to participate in QSAC, New Jersey's performance assessment and monitoring program.

These amendments are an important step in the reform of New Jersey's 15-year-old charter school law and are especially necessary in light of Governor Christie's push to establish more charter schools and expand existing schools. It is critical that charter schools operate effectively, are fully accountable for performance, and make a real contribution to the improvement of public education for all students in their host school districts.

ELC congratulates the sponsors of this legislation and the Assembly Education Committee for moving this long overdue education reform forward. It is critical for the full Legislature to enact this reform as quickly as possible, so that the State has the necessary tools to evaluate and assess accountability, performance and oversight for New Jersey's growing charter school sector.

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy & Outreach Coordinator
email: skrengel@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x24