TRENTON, June 14, 2012—The New Jersey School Boards Association today thanked the Assembly Education Committee for acting favorably on legislation that would place a one-year moratorium on the creation of virtual, or online, charter schools.
NJSBA is a non-partisan federation of 587 local school boards and includes 68 charter school associate members.
In addition to the moratorium on virtual charter schools, the legislation, A-3105 (Diegnan, Johnson), would establish a Virtual Charter School Task Force, which would make recommendations for the governance structure of cyber-charter schools to the governor and the Legislature by March 2013.
“We thank Assemblyman Diegnan for his responsiveness on this issue,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director. “The establishment, funding and operations of virtual charter schools must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Current state law and regulation do not provide sufficient guidance.”
A-3105 is now in position for a vote by the full Assembly. It reflects a May 19 vote by NJSBA’s membership, calling on the state not to consider cyber-charter school applications until it establishes clear guidelines.
Bilik noted that virtual charter schools operate in other states. However, those states have specific statutes governing the establishment, funding and operations of online charter schools.
In comparison, New Jersey’s charter school law, enacted in 1995, is silent on the matter of cyber-charter schools. Applying the 1995 law to the establishment of cyber-charters could have a negative impact on the host district's finances and the programs it is able to provide to students enrolled in its traditional schools, according to NJSBA.
“Funding and enrollment provisions of the 1995 charter school law are based on a certain number of students from a specific community or region attending a brick-and-mortar school,” said Bilik. “The enrollment zones and costs of a cyber-charter are completely different from traditional charter schools, and are not addressed in the current charter school law."
A draft of A-3105 defines a virtual charter school as "one in which all or some instruction is provided through the Internet, and students enrolled in the school and instructional staff employed by the school are geographically removed from each other."
The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of 586 local boards of education and includes more than 75 charter school associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.