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NJDOE AGAIN DISREGARDS LAW IN PROPOSING CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION

May 10, 2017

In formal comments filed with the New Jersey State Board of Education (State Board), Education Law Center strongly opposed the Board’s latest attempt to expand the charter school program beyond the original intent of the law. 

In recent years, the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) has allowed currently operating charter schools to open numerous additional schools as “satellite campuses.” The result has been the proliferation of schools in multiple locations operating under a charter initially granted for a single school.

The NJDOE lists 88 charter schools on its website. But an informal count by ELC in 2016 found at least 135 charter schools serving students, including several national charter networks operating three or more schools in different locations.   

Charter school “satellite campuses” are separate school buildings in a location other than the site initially approved in the original charter. In 2014, an appeals court, in a challenge filed by ELC, found it reasonable for a “successful charter school” to be permitted to add “a new building.”

But now the Christie administration wants to go even further. The State Board is proposing a new rule that would allow a charter school operator to establish not just one, but multiple, satellite campuses. Charter operators could open new schools, without filing new charter applications, by simply amending their existing charters. This would allow operators to bypass a more formal process under the law in which affected school districts are provided ample notice and opportunity to file objections. 

“The State Board’s proposal for multiple satellite campuses appears to be a last ditch effort to extend the charter school program beyond what the Legislature intended,” said ELC Senior Attorney Elizabeth Athos. “Given the serious impact this would have on host districts, the Christie administration must first get the Legislature’s approval before the program can be expanded.”

ELC is also urging the State Board to strengthen the regulatory framework for accountability and oversight of the state’s charter program through:

  • public posting of required annual assessments of charter schools;
  • codification of the constitutional requirement that the Commissioner assess the segregative effects and funding impact that a proposed or existing charter school will have on its district of residence;
  • collection and publication of data on students leaving and entering charter schools during the school year;
  • an independent evaluation of the charter school program and its effectiveness as a mechanism to improve and reform public education, particularly for students in high need districts.

“An initial evaluation after five years of implementation of the Charter Program Act resulted in modest legislative changes,” noted Athos. “However, we now have fifteen more years of charter experience under the State’s belt. It’s time for a rigorous study of the effects of the program, to ensure that it is improving our State’s public education system as intended under the original legislation and benefitting the nearly 1.4 million students served systemwide.”

 

Related Stories:

ELC CALLS ON STATE TO ASSESS EFFECT OF NJ CHARTERS ON SEGREGATION AND SCHOOL FUNDING

APPELLATE COURT UPHOLDS AND CLARIFIES CHARTER CAMPUS RULES

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24