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N.J. charter school law gets low marks

education050911_optBY BOB HOLT

Those on both sides who have been involved in the debates about New Jersey charter schools all seem to agree that the current charter laws need reinforcement.

Now a report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has been released around the same time that New Jersey is expected to announce a new class of charter schools. And it’s not good news for the state.

According to njspotlight.com, the report ranked New Jersey's charter school law 31 out of 42 overall, dropping from 26th place in 2011. The low ranking came from a lack of accountability based on a school’s performance, not enough authorized people to approve and review charters, and insufficient funding.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) is introducing a bill that would increase that level of accountability on schools, require greater data on those schools accepted and those remaining on the waiting list, more transparency in the budgets, and specific rules on revoking a charter. Even Governor Christie has said that the state's existing charter law needs big changes.

Spokesperson for Save Our Schools NJ Julia Rubin said, according to newsworks.org, "New Jersey's charter school law is better than those in places like Florida which allow for-profit charter school management companies - which has lead to significant abuse and corruption. But we're right up there with the worst in the country in terms of how undemocratic our approval process is."

According to their website, Save Our Schools NJ is a nonpartisan, grassroots, all-volunteer organization that supports full funding of schools, and community control over charters.

The NAPCS report says the stronger points in the New Jersey charter law, enacted in 1995, are that it is cap-free and considers start-up and virtual schools. Maine ranked at the top of their list.

Comments (3)
3 Wednesday, 18 January 2012 16:27
SaveOurSchoolsNJ is actually very supportive of many components of the Interdistrict School Choice Program, which was signed into law by Governor Christie on 2010. The law certainly can use some tweaking, much like any new legislation, but overall we find the program to be one that gives students in under-performing districts real access to quality public education. It's also useful to point out that one of SOSnj's initiatives, to give communities a voice in the charter school approval process is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. In fact, the bill that would mandate local control has co-sponsors from both parties.
2 Wednesday, 18 January 2012 16:11
It would be well worth the while of the above commentator to do a little research before commenting. Of the over 4000 members of SOSnj we have Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We have parents of children in traditional public schools and charter schools. We have people without children in the public school system. Our organization was not in response to a political party but to changes in NJ public education that we feel are dangerous to the excellence and equality our state strives to achieve. These damaging policies have been promoted by Democrats and Republicans both, and we work with both in promoting education reform that will benefit all children in all schools and give tax payers their voice in the process. We have nearly 5000 signatures on a petition in support of local control as well. While not on the radio, let me just say for the record that the Governor gave a very charismatic, impassioned State of the State yesterday. I may not agree with all the content, but unlike the above commentator, I am willing to give others respect even when I disagree.
1 Tuesday, 17 January 2012 18:41
Come On
How about doing a little bit of research, Bob? SOS NJ is anything but nonpartisan. This group sprang up right after Governor Christie was elected to office. They attack every single school reform effort that Christie has suggested. In fact, ask them to say ONE good thing about Governor Christie and I guaranty that all you'll get from them is radio silence.

Nonpartisan? Yeah right. The SOS NJ is as far left as they come and thus they are irrelevant to the school reform movement in New Jersey.

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