The Urban Hope Act, which would allow non-profit education providers to operate up to four schools each in Newark, Jersey City and Camden, will be considered by two legislative committees on Jan. 5. Under the legislation, the non-profit operators could subcontract management and staffing of the schools to private educational service providers.
The legislation, S-3173 (Norcross)/A-4426 (Fuentes), would require local board of education approval before such schools, called “Renaissance School Projects,” could be established, a critical factor for NJSBA.
If released by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee on Thursday, the bills may be posted for a vote by the full Senate and Assembly on Jan. 9, the final voting session in the current legislative session. A proposal embodied by the Urban Hope Act was announced by Governor Christie last spring during a ceremony that involved the Camden City Board of Education.
Funding Under the bill, the school district would pay the non-profit operator 95 percent of its per pupil total expenditure for each student enrolled in the Renaissance School. Each project would be authorized for 10 years, subject to periodic reviews by the commissioner of education to determine if the school is meeting educational goals and improving student achievement.
Unlike public school districts, Renaissance Schools would not be subject to the public bidding requirements for goods and services. NJSBA has concerns with this provision. As with public school districts, contracts entered into by the Renaissance non-profit entity or service provider would be subject to the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act.
Facility Costs A Renaissance School building would be a public school that is constructed, controlled, operated and managed by the not-for-profit education provider, rather than the local board of education. Project costs, including land acquisition, site remediation, site development, design and construction would be borne by the non-profit entity. However, the operator may use state funds to pay for the building’s lease, debt service or mortgage. The school could be built on land owned by the school district or on property owned by the state’s Schools Development Authority (the agency that oversees school construction in the former Abbott districts) and conveyed to the school district or the non-profit operator.