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APPELLATE COURT UPHOLDS AND CLARIFIES CHARTER CAMPUS RULES

November 12, 2014

In a decision issued November 12, a New Jersey Appeals Court upheld the NJ Department of Education's (NJDOE) regulation allowing "successful" charter schools to open a "satellite campus" in "former Abbott districts" through amendment to an existing charter instead of applying for a new charter.  

After the NJDOE adopted the rules, Education Law Center filed an appeal, challenging the rule as exceeding the scope of the charter program established by the Legislature in New Jersey’s charter school law. 

The Court, however, did issue several important clarifications of the rule, including the following:

  • An existing "successful" charter school can only apply for “a” satellite campus in the district “already served” by the charter school;
  • District boards of education must receive notice of the proposed addition of a satellite campus application and be given the opportunity to file comments; and 
  • The "exceedingly careful" review for effects on student segregation and loss of funding that has been required by the NJ Supreme Court for initial charter applications, to ensure a constitutional "thorough and efficient" education for all students, applies equally to the Commissioner’s review of “a proposed amendment to add a satellite campus to an existing charter school.”

This case is significant because it also forced the Attorney General to disclose, for the first time, data showing that the amendment process has been used to significantly expand the number of charter schools in the state. ELC estimates that there may be more than 120 charter schools across the state, well in excess of the 87 officially listed on NJDOE’s website. Because of the NJDOE’s lack of transparency in the amendment process, it is unclear how many charter schools are actually educating students and receiving public funding.

“This case has brought to light the ‘under the radar’ process used by NJDOE to allow existing charters to open a significant number of new schools. More importantly, the Appellate Court has made clear its expectation that NJDOE will subject amendments to expand existing charters to rigorous review to ensure educational equity for all students, whether in district or charter schools,” said Elizabeth Athos, the ELC Senior Attorney who handled the appeal. 

“This ruling also makes clear the need for the Legislature to take up long overdue reforms to bring more accountability and transparency to the charter program, and to enact safeguards to ensure charter schools operate effectively and contribute to the improvement of public education for all students in the communities they serve,” Ms. Athos added.

ELC was joined by attorneys from the Gibbons law firm, representing the grassroots organization Save Our Schools NJ (SOSNJ). SOSNJ submitted an amicus brief in support of ELC’s position on the charter regulations at issue.

 

Related Stories:

NJ COULD HAVE OVER 130 CHARTER SCHOOLS, NOT 87

NJDOE EFFORT TO BYPASS SAFEGUARDS IN CHARTER LAW CHALLENGED BEFORE APPEALS COURT

STATE'S CHARTER EXPANSION REGULATIONS UNDER CHALLENGE BY ELC

 

Press Contact:

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