At its regular monthly meeting, held on April 1, the State Board of Education proposed a change in the rules pertaining to the financial operations of charter schools.

These rules would align the regulations with legislative changes made to the part of the Charter School Act that provided the Commissioner of Education discretion to reduce a school district’s charter school payment below the statutory per-pupil rate. According to current statute, school districts must pay a charter school an amount equal to 90 percent of the sum of the budget-year equalization aid per pupil and the pre-budget year general fund tax levy per pupil inflated by the consumer price index (CPI).

Prior to the amendments made to the Charter School Act in 2000, the law provided the commissioner with the authority to require a school district to pay more or less than 90 percent of the per-pupil amount. Since the section authorizing the commissioner’s discretion was removed, the state board is proposing that the corresponding rule be repealed.

Student Residency The State Board also adopted a proposal to amend the student residency regulations. In January 2014, the Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Christie signed A-735, which guarantees students who move from one school district to another as a result of a family crisis the right to continue attending the school they attended prior to their move. The NJDOE proposed a regulation to list specific situations that must be considered a family crisis for eligibility to continue attending a school district even when the student has moved to a new school district. The new law lists only two examples of family crises but requires the State Board to include additional situations in its promulgation of rules. The proposal lists common situations (abuse such as domestic violence or sexual abuse; disruption of the family unit caused by death of a parent or guardian; and unplanned displacement such as fire, flood, hurricane, or other circumstances that render the residence uninhabitable) but will provide flexibility for unusual circumstances that also could qualify.

PARCC Testimony The State Board also heard from its student representative on the administration of the PARCC exams.  The student representative looked at an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school regarding the PARCC administration.  In his report, the student representative said that despite some technical difficulties, the administration went smoothly at those schools.  Concern was raised about those special education students who cannot perform at grade level and the appropriateness of taking the PARCC if they cannot perform at grade level. Hespe responded that the technical glitches and special education concerns will need to be examined. The commissioner also let the board know that there were 1.6 million completed PARCC tests so far in this testing period.  The commissioner estimates that there was a 95 percent participation rate when looking at the state as a whole.

Religious Holidays, School Library Month  The state board also approved the annual list of religious holidays on which it is mandatory to excuse a student. Boards of education, at their discretion, may add other days to the list for the schools in their districts. The State Board also approved a resolution to recognize April 2015 as School Library Month.