Measuring Up

 



New Jersey

TOTAL SCORE:
124 out of 240

Rank: 35 out of 44

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted: 1995
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17: 88
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17: 48,900

New Jersey’s law does not contain caps on charter public school growth and provides a fair amount of accountability, but it includes only a single authorizing path and provides insufficient autonomy and inequitable funding to charter schools.

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

*Since New Jersey does not allow full-time virtual charter schools, the highest score possible is 228 for the remaining 20 components. However, we converted this score to one that is comparable to the states that allow full-time virtual charter schools. New Jersey received 118 out of the 228 points available for the remaining 20 components, or 52 percent. We then multiplied the total points possible for all 21 components (240) by 52 percent to get a score comparable to the other states (124).

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 numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter schools or students.

1B. If caps exist, there is room for growth.

N/A

2. A Variety of Charter Public Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey law allows new start-ups and public school conversions.

8

2A. New startups.

2B. Public school conversions.

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.

6

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 commissioner of education as an authorizer, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the state commissioner of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

6

4A. Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report.

4D. The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.

4E. The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new 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 does not include any of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

0

5A. A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.

5B. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

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

5D. 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.

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.

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6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to using educational service providers.

6D. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6E. Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6F. Application approval criteria.

6G. 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.

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

8

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

7B. With such contracts defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. With such contracts defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.

7D. With such contracts providing an initial term of five operating years.

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.

12

8A. Required annual school performance reports.

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.

8D. Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

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

8F. Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

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 decision 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.

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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. Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.

9E. Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9F. 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.

9G. Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.

9H. Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9I. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

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

9K. All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.

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

9M. Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

N/A

10. Transparency Regarding Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

New Jersey’s law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions for transparency regarding educational service providers. 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.

2

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are 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, 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 charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.

10D. School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

10E. Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.

10F. An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.

10G. Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Charter Public 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. Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student 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 charter school be open to all students on a space available basis and shall not discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, status as a handicapped person, proficiency in the English language, or any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district. It also requires that a lottery must 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.

8

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

12B. Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.

12D. Lottery requirements.

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

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Instead of providing charter schools 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 nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any district 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 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. An independent charter school board may oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. An independent charter school board may 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 extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

17. Clear Provisions Regarding 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.

6

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

17B. Clarity regarding the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.

17C. 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).

17D. Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

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

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

New Jersey law requires the school district of residence to pay directly to the charter school for each student enrolled in the charter school who resides in the district an amount equal to the lower of either 90% of the program budget per pupil for the specific grade level in the district or 90% of the maximum T&E amount (which is defined in state law). The law provides that the per-pupil amount paid to the charter school shall not exceed the program budget per pupil for the specific grade level in the district in which the charter school is located.

The law also provides that for any student enrolled in a charter school in which 90% of the program budget per pupil for the specific grade level is greater than 90% of the maximum T&E amount, the state shall pay the difference between the two amounts.

In the case of a student who was not included in the district's projected resident enrollment for the school year, the law requires the state to pay 100% of the amount required pursuant to subsection b. of this section for the first year of the student's enrollment in the charter school.

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.

The law also provides that the district of residence shall pay directly to the charter school any categorical aid attributable to the student, provided the student is receiving appropriate categorical services, and any federal funds attributable to the student.

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 (University of Arkansas, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, 2014), New Jersey charter schools were receiving on average $14,887 per pupil in public funds, while district public schools would have received $21,834 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $6,947 per pupil - or 31.8% - less than what the district 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).

0

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.

18D. Annual report offering district and charter public school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

New Jersey law includes a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding equitable access to capital funding and facilities. New Jersey law provides charter schools access to tax-exempt bonds from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The law provides that a charter school may be located in part of an existing public school building, in space provided on a public work site, in a public building, or any other suitable location and that the facility shall be exempt from public school facility regulations except those pertaining to the health or safety of the pupils.

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Facilities Funding

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

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

19C. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.


Access to Public Space

19D. A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that school’s students reside in that district.

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


Access to Financing Tools

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

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

19H. Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.

19I. The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.

19J. The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.

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


Other

19L. Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.

19M. Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.

19N. Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other 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).

21. Full-Time Virtual Charter School Provisions (if such schools allowed by state)

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

New Jersey law does not allow full-time virtual charter schools.

N/A

21A. An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.

N/A

21B. Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.

N/A

21C. Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.

N/A

21D. Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.

N/A

21E. Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.

N/A

21F. Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.

N/A