Charter School Reform Bill Signed Into Law

Legislation to help create strong performing charter schools in failing school districts was officially signed into law on today. “Charter schools have a role to play as we undertake significant education reform measures,” said Jasey. “The intention was never to replace regular public schools but rather to provide schools where new approaches and strategies could be tested and then, where successful, shared with their counterparts.”

The new law, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey and Albert Coutinho, will permit high-performing non-public schools in failing school districts to convert to charter schools upon approval of an expedited application by the state. The application must certify that upon conversion to charter school status the school will prohibit religious instruction, events and activities that promote religious views, and the display of religious symbols. The name of the proposed charter school cannot include any religious reference.

Under the law, the Commissioner of Education is directed to establish an expedited process for the review of such applications.

“Charter schools, if done correctly, can be a vital part in improving our public education system and ensuring quality education for our children,” Coutinho said. “By removing some of the obstacles to creating charter schools, we’ll be opening the door to a better future for many children while ensuring the proper oversight is in place for a quality education.”

The bill, which passed the Assembly by a vote of 59-14-4 in June and the Senate by a vote of 25-13 in September, is part of a larger charter school reform package passed by the Assembly earlier this year. TLS.

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  1. Here is the scoop on Charter Schools:

    Business and individuals investing in a qualified community development entity that funds a charter school receive a federal tax credit for up to 39% of the principal if they do not cash out for seven years, under the the New Markets Tax Credit. The taxpayer also keeps profits and interest.

    A state funded charter is unlike a school eligible for vouchers which is still a private school and is only required not discriminate and is required to give the a state proficiency test. A charter school cannot be a religious school as it “operate[s] in accordance with its charter and the provisions of law and regulation which govern other public schools.”

    Lakewood parents and educators can form a board of trustees to charter an online school tailored to the needs of Lakewood children, hiring licensed teachers for about $27,500 a year for five courses to spend virtual “live” time with students and supervise their progress. (An online program cannot be completely automated. A certified teacher in each subject has to manage coursework. See Neptune Township Educational Association v. Neptune Township Board of Education, OAL DKT. NO. EDU 392-99.)

    A brick and mortar charter school leasing space in a yeshiva during afternoon hours can operate as a separate faculty enrolling the same students for English from 2:00-6:30 for core curriculum and physical education courses, as New Jersey regulations require that a “school day shall consist of not less than four hours of actual instruction.”

    A charter can maintain dual sites, one in Lakewood during morning hours and one, say, in Monmouth County during afternoon hours, to facilitate opportunity for yeshiva students who learn English outside the Lakewood tachum, while allowing other students to attend school in Lakewood.

    A charter school can operate as single gender school under federal law.

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