Parents and Lawmakers Urge Senate to Take Up Charter School Reform
Jasey testifies at Senate Education Committee; SOS NJ holds press conference afterward to call for the Senate to reform charter school laws.
A group of parents and legislators on Thursday urged the Senate to pass several measures that would create more accountability and oversight when it comes to charter schools in New Jersey.
Legislative bills approved in the Assembly that would change the way charter schools are established and operated, were posted for “discussion only” before the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.
Mila Jasey, (D-Essex), sponsored the successful Assembly bills and has advocated requiring voter approval before charter schools can be established in a given district since taxpayer money supports the schools, and testified before the committee Thursday.
In testimony, released by Jasey Thursday, she noted, “School budgets account for more than one half of local taxpayer dollars, and I strongly believe that voters should have the opportunity, indeed the right, to decide if they want a charter school located in their school district.”
She went on to say: “I believe that charter schools play an important role as incubators of innovation, and should be collaborating with our traditional public schools to share best practices. However, in these challenging economic times, as our school districts struggle financially to provide all of our students with the excellent education to which they are entitled, a proliferation of charter schools competing for scarce dollars is fraught with problems for all the students of a school district.”
The Committee also heard from representatives of charter school organizations who argued that the current law is too restrictive and the reforms should place fewer limits on charter schools.
During the debate over the idea of public approval of charter schools Carlos Perez, president and CEO of the New Jersey Charter School Association, said, “Requiring a referendum on charter schools is not only bad public policy, it undermines the entire premise of a charter school. It’s a reaction to a challenge of the status quo by the entrenched education establishment to stop the thriving charter school movement in New Jersey in its tracks.”
One of the two measures discussed by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday was A-3852, which requires final voter approval at the annual school election or by the board of school estimate before the establishment of a charter school. Sponsored by Jasey and several other assembly members including Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), the bill was approved in the Assembly in June. The other, A-3356, creates greater accountability and transparency of charter schools and their operations, and was sponsored by Jasey and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex/Union).
After the hearing, Jasey and representatives from Save Our Schools NJ, The Education Law Center, The School Boards Association, SPAN, along with Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex) and others from around the state, urged the Senate to hear and vote to approve the measures that would give districts local control.
SOS NJ reps said Friday they were told it was unlikely that the Senate will address the issue before election in November.
John Mooney, editor of NJ Spotlight, a non-partisan issue-driven news website that provides insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses, attended the hearing in Trenton Thursday and offers an analysis of the issue in a story titled Charter Anxiety: A Suburban Malady?.