ASSEMBLY, No. 3356

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED OCTOBER 7, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman† ALBERT COUTINHO

District 29 (Essex and Union)

Assemblywoman† MILA M. JASEY

District 27 (Essex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Requires charter school to maintain a waiting list and authorizes collaboration between school districts and charter schools; establishes criteria for the revocation of a schoolís charter.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning charter schools and amending and supplementing P.L.1995, c.426.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† Section 8 of P.L.1995, c.426 (C.18A:36A-8) is amended to read as follows:†

†††† 8.† a.† Preference for enrollment in a charter school shall be given to students who reside in the school district in which the charter school is located.† If there are more applications to enroll in the charter school than there are spaces available, the charter school shall select students to attend using a random selection process.† A charter school shall not charge tuition to students who reside in the district.

†††† b.††† A charter school shall allow any student who was enrolled in the school in the immediately preceding school year to enroll in the charter school in the appropriate grade unless the appropriate grade is not offered at the charter school.

†††† c.†††† A charter school may give enrollment priority to a sibling of a student enrolled in the charter school.

†††† d.††† If available space permits, a charter school may enroll non-resident students.† The terms and condition of the enrollment shall be outlined in the school's charter and approved by the commissioner.

†††† e.†††† The admission policy of the charter school shall, to the maximum extent practicable, seek the enrollment of a cross section of the community's school age population including racial and academic factors.

†††† f.† A charter school shall maintain a waiting list for admission to the school and shall annually submit the number of students on the waiting list to the commissioner.† The Department of Education and the charter school shall post the number on their websites and shall update the number as appropriate.

(cf: P.L.1995, c.426, s.8)

 

†††† 2.††† Section 16 of P.L.1995, c.426 (C.18A:36A-16) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 16. a. The commissioner shall annually assess whether each charter school is meeting the goals of its charter[, and].† The annual assessment shall be in writing and shall be posted on the departmentís website no later than October 15.† The assessment shall include the number of students who enrolled in and withdrew from the charter school during the year.

†††† The commissioner shall conduct a comprehensive review prior to granting a renewal of the charter. The findings of the review shall be submitted in writing to the charter school no later than six months prior to the commissionerís decision on the renewal of the charter.

†††† The executive county superintendent of schools of the county in which the charter school is located shall have on-going access to the records and facilities of the charter school to ensure that the charter school is in compliance with its charter and that State board regulations concerning assessment, testing, civil rights, and student health and safety are being met, as well as regulations concerning student discipline, special education, and bilingual education in the event that the charter school is not exempt pursuant to the provisions of subsection a. of section 11 of P.L.1995, c.426 (C.18A:36A-11).

†††† b.††† In order to facilitate the commissioner's review, each charter school shall submit an annual report to the local board of education, the executive county superintendent of schools, and the commissioner in the form prescribed by the commissioner. The report shall be received annually by the local board, the executive county superintendent, and the commissioner no later than August 1.

The report shall also be made available to the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the charter school.

†††† c.†††† By April 1, 2001, the commissioner shall hold public hearings in the north, central, and southern regions of the State to receive input from members of the educational community and the public on the charter school program.

†††† d.††† The commissioner shall commission an independent study of the charter school program.† The study shall be conducted by an individual or entity identified with expertise in the field of education and the selection shall be approved by the Joint Committee on the Public Schools.† The individual or entity shall design a comprehensive study of the charter school program.

†††† e.†††† The commissioner shall submit to the Governor, the Legislature, and the State Board of Education by October 1, 2001 an evaluation of the charter school program based upon the public input required pursuant to subsection c. of this section and the independent study required pursuant to subsection d. of this section.† The evaluation shall include, but not be limited to, consideration of the following elements:

†††† (1)†† the impact of the charter school program on resident districts' students, staff, parents, educational programs, and finances;

†††† (2)†† the impact of the charter school program and the increased number of schools on the economics of educational services on a Statewide basis;

†††† (3)†† the fairness and the impact of the reduction of available resources on the ability of resident districts to promote competitive educational offerings;

†††† (4)†† the impact of the shift of pupils from nonpublic schools to charter schools;

†††† (5)†† the comparative demographics of student enrollments in school districts of residence and the charter schools located within those districts. The comparison shall include, but not be limited to, race, gender, socioeconomic status, enrollment of special education students, enrollment of students of limited English proficiency, and student progress toward meeting the core curriculum content standards as measured by student results on Statewide assessment tests;

†††† (6)†† the degree of involvement of private entities in the operation and financial support of charter schools, and their participation as members of charter school boards of trustees;

†††† (7)†† verification of the compliance of charter schools with applicable laws and regulations;

†††† (8)†† student progress toward meeting the goals of the charter schools;

†††† (9)†† parent, community and student satisfaction with charter schools;

†††† (10) the extent to which waiting lists exist for admission to charter schools and the length of those lists;

†††† (11)† the extent of any attrition among student and faculty members in charter schools; and

†††† (12)† the results of the independent study required pursuant to subsection d. of this section.

†††† The evaluation shall include a recommendation on the advisability of the continuation, modification, expansion, or termination of the program.† If the evaluation does not recommend termination, then it shall include recommendations for changes in the structure of the program which the commissioner deems advisable.† The commissioner may not implement any recommended expansion, modification, or termination of the program until the Legislature acts on that recommendation.

(cf: P.L.2000, c.142, s.3)

 

†††† 3.††† Section 17 of P.L.1995, c.426 (C.18A:36A-17) is amended to read as follows:

†††† 17.† a.† A charter granted by the commissioner pursuant to the provisions of this act shall be granted for a four-year period and may be renewed for a five-year period.† The commissioner may revoke a schoolís charter if the school:

†††† (1)† has not fulfilled any condition imposed by the commissioner in connection with the granting of the charter [or if the school has violated any provision of its charter];

†††† (2)† fails to achieve the core curriculum content standards or fails to meet any performance standard set forth in the schoolís charter;

†††† (3) engages in a practice and pattern of discrimination in violation of federal or State law or violates any federal or State law; or

†††† (4)† violates any provision of its charter, including provisions concerning fiscal responsibility.

†††† b.† The commissioner may place the charter school on probationary status to allow the implementation of a remedial plan after which, if the plan is unsuccessful, the charter may be summarily revoked.† The commissioner shall develop procedures and guidelines for the revocation and renewal of a school's charter which shall be in accordance with the provisions of subsection a. of this section.

c.Upon the revocation of its charter, a charter school shall provide the following information to the commissioner and to the parents or guardians of the charter schoolís students:
(1)† the effective date of the closure;
(2)† the name and contact information of the person to whom reasonable inquiries may be made regarding the closure; and
(3)† the district of residence for the student.
d. †Upon the revocation of its charter, the charter school shall also provide the parents or guardians with information on how to transfer the student to the school district of residence.† The charter school shall forward all student records to a studentís district of residence. 
e.† A charter school shall cause an independent final audit of the schoolís accounts and financial transactions to be made by a public school accountant within six months following the closure of the school.† The audit shall include, but not be limited to:
(1)† an accounting of all financial assets, including accounts receivable, and an inventory of property, equipment, and other items of material value;
(2)† an accounting of the liabilities, including accounts payable; and
(3)† an assessment of the disposition of any restricted funds received by or due to the charter school.
f.†††††† A charter school shall dispose of any net assets remaining after all liabilities of the charter school have been paid or otherwise addressed including, but not limited to, the following:
(1)† the return of any grant funds and restricted categorical funds to their source in accordance with the terms of the grant or State and federal law, as appropriate, which may include submission of final expenditure reports for entitlement grants and the filing of any required final expenditure reports and final performance reports; and
(2)† the return of any donated materials and property in accordance with any conditions established when the donation of the materials or property was accepted.

(cf: P.L.1995, c.426, s.17)

†††† 4.† (New section)† A charter school shall annually submit its budget for the upcoming school year to the commissioner for approval.† The budget shall be submitted in such format, and by such date, as determined by the commissioner and shall include information on revenues received from private or philanthropic sources and expenses supported by those revenues.† The commissioner shall post the charter schoolís approved budget on the departmentís website.

 

†††† 5.††† (New section)† A board of education and a charter school may enter into a written agreement to conduct collaborative education programs or implement shared services if the arrangement will serve to improve any of the following:

†††† a.†††† teacher quality;

†††† b.††† professional development opportunities for teachers and principals;

†††† c.†††† school leadership;

†††† d.††† programs and services for students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities; and

†††† e.†††† drop-out rates and achievement gaps among students.

 

†††† 6. †This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill implements certain measures to improve the oversight and accountability of charter schools.† The bill does the following:

†††† (1)† requires a charter school to maintain a waiting list for admission to the school and to annually submit the number of students on the waiting list to the Commissioner of Education.† The Department of Education and the charter school will post the number on their websites and update the number as appropriate;†

†††† (2)†† requires that the commissionerís annual assessment of a charter school that is required under current law be in writing and posted on the departmentís website no later than October 15;

†††† (3)†† requires that the findings of the commissionerís comprehensive review of a charter school required under current law prior to granting a renewal of the charter be provided in writing to the charter school no later than six months prior to the commissionerís decision on the renewal of the charter;

†††† (4)†† establishes the following as grounds for which the commissioner may revoke a schoolís charter:

†††† - the charter school has not fulfilled any condition imposed by the commissioner in connection with the granting of the charter;

†††† - the charter school fails to achieve the core curriculum content standards or fails to meet any performance standard set forth in the schoolís charter;

†††† - the charter school engages in a practice and pattern of discrimination in violation of federal or State law or violates any federal or State law; or

†††† - the charter school violates any provision of its charter, including provisions concerning fiscal responsibility;

†††† (5) requires the commissioner to post a charter schoolís approved budget on the departmentís website; and

†††† (6) permits a board of education and a charter school to enter into a written agreement to conduct collaborative education programs or implement shared services if the arrangement will serve to improve teacher quality of student achievement.

Under the bill, upon the revocation of its charter, a charter school must provide the commissioner and the parents or guardians of its students with information on how to transfer the student to the school district of residence and must forward all student records to that district.† A charter school must also cause an independent final audit to be conducted of the schoolís accounts and financial transactions within six months following the closure of the school.