On Monday, the Assembly Education Committee took a significant step forward in the process of updating and improving New Jersey’s 1995 charter school law. The Committee introduced for discussion a bill (A4177) that would “establish additional standards and safeguards to ensure that the charter school program is operated in an effective and accountable manner…and contributes to the overall improvement of public education for all students in the districts served by charter schools.”
As noted by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, the bill was the result of a highly collaborative process begun months ago and including representatives from organizations such as the NJ Charter Schools Association, Save Our Schools NJ, the Garden State Coalition of Schools, state professional associations, Education Law Center and others.
These organizations offered testimony about the bill at the committee hearing, demonstrating broad consensus on many of the recommendations it contains.
“We believe A4177 carefully reflects both experience and best practice in the charter sector. Indeed, we believe that A4177 is a national model for ensuring proper legislative authorization, oversight and accountability for charter schools – a model that other states will no doubt follow,” said Sharon Krengel, ELC Policy and Outreach Director, who presented testimony on behalf of the organization.
The wide-ranging bill clarifies many aspects of the charter school program, requiring more information from the NJ Department of Education, charter applicants and charter schools themselves. It explicitly directs charter schools to serve student populations that are comparable to those in the district schools from which they draw. It provides a mechanism for binding local input on charter approval or expansion. And it encourages collaboration between charters and district schools for the benefit of both.
Speakers at the hearing agreed with Assemblyman Diegnan that the proposed legislation would increase “predictability, accountability and transparency” for charter and district schools.
“This bill is comprehensive and fair, and it tackles issues in the charter sector that have arisen over almost two decades of experience,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “The bill’s sponsors and all those who worked on it are to be applauded. We look forward to the companion version in the Senate and rapid passage in both chambers.”
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