A series of reforms that would benefit charter schools, by helping them hire staff and find facilities, was proposed by Gov. Chris Christie at the New Jersey Charter Schools Conference in late May.
The proposals would permit charter schools to create their own certification standards for teachers, and hire business administrators who hold CPA licenses, in lieu of master’s degrees. Christie would also allow single-gender and single-purpose charter schools to open, such as a high school for over-age students, who have not been able to graduate in four years.
Most of the proposals would need to be approved by the State Board of Education, according to published reports.
“Our commitment to ensure the success of charter schools in New Jersey has never been stronger, and these reforms will heighten the benefits of innovative, accountable learning environments for children, their parents and our communities,” Christie said at the charter schools conference, held in Atlantic City.
Christie also proposed changes that would help charter schools acquire facilities. Under his proposal, all state-operated districts would be required to offer leases to charter schools for any available, unused facilities in the district. And, all districts would be required to report to the state education department any buildings that would be available for lease to a charter school.
Other reforms involve administrative flexibility for charter schools, and would allow for an increase in weighted lotteries. Charter school seats are distributed by a lottery system, but Christie’s proposal would add language explicitly allowing weighted lotteries for educationally disadvantaged students.
NJSBA’s Concerns “NJSBA supports choice within the public sector, including charter schools,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Today, 81 of the state’s 89 operating charter schools are members of NJSBA’s associate membership program. However, we oppose efforts that would place traditional public schools at a financial disadvantage to accommodate charters.
“NJSBA is studying the governor’s proposal in light of our policies,” said Feinsod. “We are concerned that the requirement that all school districts notify the state of vacant facilities might lead to a loss of local control over the community’s plans for those schools.”
The Association also has reservations about the proposal to loosen certification requirements for charter school teachers and business administrators. “Foremost, we are concerned about the impact on students’ education,” said Feinsod. “However, we also have to ask a question: If the administration believes that such flexibility would benefit education in charter schools, why would it not propose the same for traditional public school districts?”
NJSBA is also concerned about the source of the new funding that would be provided for the renovation, expansion and reconstruction of charter facilities, and the possibility that the proposal could negatively affect funding available for traditional school districts.
Charter School Growth Charter schools have grown rapidly in recent years. Some 39 of New Jersey’s 89 charter schools have opened in the past six years, and next year, the number of authorized charter school seats will increase by 10 percent to more than 50,000. In February 2016, the New Jersey Department of Education approved the expansion of 16 charter schools, renewed the charters of 19 schools, and approved three new schools to open in the 2017-2018 school year.