Measuring Up to the Model



New Jersey

TOTAL SCORE:
116 out of 228

Rank: 32 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1995
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  87
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  31,743

New Jersey did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking.

New Jersey’s score increased from 114 points in 2013 to 116 points this year.  The score changed because of further clarification about the specific policies for Component #2 (A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed) and a change in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required).  Its ranking went from #29 to #32.

Potential areas for improvement include expanding authorizer options for applicants, ensuring authorizer accountability, providing adequate authorizer funding, increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do New Jersey's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

New Jersey's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

New Jersey law does not place any caps on charter school growth.

12

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law allows new start-ups and public school conversions, but not virtual schools (per the state commissioner of education’s rationale for rejecting two virtual charter school applications in 2013).

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

New Jersey law only allows the state commissioner of education to authorize charter schools. There are 87 charter schools open in the state.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

While the law does not require the legislature and governor to regularly review the performance of the state board of education as an authorizer, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the state board of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

However, it does not require authorizer submission of an annual report that summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio and a periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

6

4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

0

5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

New Jersey law provides application requirements for all schools. It also provides additional application requirements specific to conversion schools and additional application elements specific when using educational service providers. State rules include an expedited application and review process from founders with demonstrable experience operating an educational institution. New Jersey law does not provide additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

The law does not require the state commissioner to issue a request for proposals.

According to New Jersey law and regulations, applications are submitted to the state commissioner of education, the county superintendent, and the local school board (allowing such local school boards to provide their recommendation to the state commissioner as input), and the state commissioner approves or denies the application. It allows approvals and denials to be appealed by local school boards and prospective charter schools to the state board of education.

The law requires the state commissioner to conduct in-depth personal interviews of all qualified applicants (i.e., those making it through the phase one review), and final decisions are made following a successful preparedness visit to perspective charter schools. Nothing is noted that such evaluations include public meetings.

The law does not require all charter approval or denial decisions be made in a public meeting with the state commissioner stating reason for denials in writing.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

N/A

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

State rules include the definition of a charter agreement to be a written agreement between a charter school and the state commissioner that sets forth criteria the school must satisfy, including, but not limited to, measurable performance goals and indicators in the school’s performance framework (with such performance framework elements detailed to include all pieces from the model law except recurrent enrollment). There is no specific requirement that the contract state that the roles, powers, and responsibilities for both parties be defined.

The law provides that the initial term of a charter is for four years.

The law does not include requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools.

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7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

N/A

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

The law requires charter schools to provide annual performance, financial, and operational data to the local board of education, county superintendent of schools, and the state commissioner. The law also requires that these reports be made available to the parents or guardians of enrolled students. State rules require the state commissioner to prescribe the format of these reports and requires that they include evidence of how the school is achieving the mission, goals, and objectives of its charter as measured against the performance framework and evidence of financial compliance using generally accepted accounting principles.

Based in part on the annual performance reports prepared by charter schools, the law requires the authorizer to annually assess whether each charter school is meeting the goals of its charter.

New Jersey law empowers the state commissioner to place a charter school on probationary status for an appropriate time period to allow implementation of a remedial plan upon a finding that the school is not operating in compliance with its charter, applicable statutes, or regulations.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

New Jersey law requires schools seeking renewal to apply for it.

New Jersey law and regulations provide clear renewal criteria, including the review of annual performance reports, student performance on state standardized tests, monitoring visits, annual assessments of student composition of the school, and local district recommendations. State rules note that decisions are to be made based on evidence in alignment with the performance frameworks in their charter.

The law provides that a charter school may be closed for failing to fulfill any condition imposed by the state commissioner of education in connection with the granting of the charter or violating any provision of its charter.

The law allows the state commissioner to grant or deny a renewal application upon a comprehensive review of the school, including the renewal application, the school’s annual reports, comments on the annual reports from the local district, state test scores, monitoring of the school by the county superintendent and state commissioner, annual assessments of student composition of the school, the recommendation of the local district board, and interviews with school leaders, parents, and teachers conducted by the state commissioner.

Under New Jersey law, charters can be renewed for five years.

The law requires the state commissioner to provide written notice of a closure decisions to schools but applicable law and regulation offer limited language on due process protections. It also does not require the state commissioner to make all charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions in a public meeting.

State rules include detailed language regarding school closure protocols, which include timely parent and staff notification, orderly student and record transition, and property and asset disposition.

New Jersey law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year, require authorizers to issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans, and provide authorizers the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

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9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law specifically allows a charter school to be established by a private entity in conjunction with teachers and parents, but the law limits the role of such private entities by providing that the school’s name may not include the name of the private entity, members of the private entity cannot constitute a majority of the board, and the private entity may not realize a net profit from its operation of the school.

Other than the requirement that the charter must specify the extent of the entity’s involvement in the operation of the schools, there are no other provisions related to performance contracts, relationships between educational service providers and charter boards, and authorizer approval of such contracts.

2

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

New Jersey law provides that charter schools are independent of district control and have all powers necessary or desirable for carrying out the school’s program. It also provides that they are managed by a board of trustees empowered to supervise and control the charter school.

12

11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law provides that charter schools must provide open enrollment to any student in the state.

New Jersey law requires that a lottery be held if applications exceed available seats.

The law provides a mandatory preference for students from the local district and returning students enrolled in the previous school year. The law provides an optional preference for siblings of enrolled students, but this preference isn’t required.

Under New Jersey law, admissions policies of New Jersey charter schools must, to the maximum extent practicable, seek enrollment of a cross section of the community’s school age population, including racial and academic factors.

The law does not allow charters to provide enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees.

4

12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Instead of providing charters with automatic exemptions from most state and district laws and regulations, New Jersey law provides that exemptions from particular laws, regulations, and policies may be requested in the charter application, except those pertaining to assessment, testing, civil rights, and student health and safety.

New Jersey law does not exempt charter schools from state teacher certification requirements.

3

13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

New Jersey law provides that start-up schools are exempt from district collective bargaining agreements, but also provides that conversion schools are not exempt from district collective bargaining agreements.

6

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

N/A

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law is silent regarding these arrangements. However, state rules include a definition of a “satellite campus” and allows schools to amend their charters to open a satellite campus in certain districts (those with a priority school or in a former Abbott District), enabling high quality schools to expand their capacity to serve additional students by operating an additional facility. No language is provided regarding the independent fiscal and academic accountability for each campus.

4

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

New Jersey law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Under New Jersey law, the school is the local education agency for special education. The law requires the school to provide and fund special education services except for low-incident, high-cost students, for which the resident school district takes the responsibility and funding obligation.

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17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

New Jersey law allows for substantial funding disparities by some charter schools relative to regular district schools caused by the exclusion of charter schools from state adjustment aid payments.

Under New Jersey law, local districts must pass along funding to charter schools in 12 equal installments starting on July 15th and thereafter on the 15th of each month and must make certain additional aid payments in 20 equal installments.

The law requires local school boards to provide transportation or aid in lieu of transportation for K-12 students attending charter schools.

In a recent national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), New Jersey charter schools were receiving on average $12,908 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $19,782 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $6,874 per pupil - or 34.7% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

New Jersey law provides charter schools access to tax-exempt bonds from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

In a recent national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), New Jersey charter schools were receiving on average $12,908 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $19,782 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $6,874 per pupil - or 34.7% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals significant inequities for both operational and capital funding (see component #18 for information on operational issues).

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19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law requires charter schools to participate in the relevant employee retirement systems.

4

20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).