SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
SENATE, No. 2821
with committee amendments
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 24, 2013
The Senate Budget and Appropriations committee favorably reports Senate Bill No. 2821, with committee amendments.
As amended, this bill makes various changes to the Urban Hope Act including the financing and siting of renaissance school projects.
The “Urban Hope Act,” P.L.2011, c.176 (C.18A:36C-1 et seq.), authorized the Camden, Newark, and Trenton School Districts to, on a limited pilot program basis, partner with one or more nonprofit entities to create “renaissance school projects.”
(1) eliminates the requirement that a renaissance school project, which is defined as consisting of a newly-constructed school or group of schools, must be in a common campus setting, instead permitting the schools of a renaissance school project to be in an urban campus area;
(2) requires that the application submitted by the nonprofit entity to create a renaissance school project must include an affirmation that after the initial school facility, any other school facility in which the renaissance school project will be located, will be within the required urban campus area;
(3) requires that the application submitted by the nonprofit entity to create a renaissance school project must include documentation of a funding plan to acquire necessary lands to construct the project, and eliminate the requirement for documentation of the funds available to construct the project and, if the project will include the acquisition of land, a description of the land to be acquired, the costs and timetable for the acquisition, and the plan for financing the acquisition;
(4) includes a requirement, similar to that included for charter schools, that the renaissance school project allow any student who was enrolled in the school in the immediately preceding school year to enroll in the school in the appropriate grade the following year. In addition, the bill provides that for certain types of renaissance school projects, in the case of a grade level at capacity, a student who has been enrolled in the renaissance school project will have enrollment priority in that grade over a student who has just moved into the attendance area and who would, therefore, otherwise be eligible for automatic enrollment;
(5) explicitly permits renaissance school projects to provide educational programs at the pre-kindergarten grade level;
(6) provides that, as with charter schools, renaissance school projects be considered local education agencies for the limited purpose of applying for federal entitlement and discretionary funds;
(7) provides that, as with charter schools, the renaissance school project must inform the resident school district of any individualized education plan which results in a private day or residential treatment plan for a student, and the resident district would be permitted a certain period of time to challenge that placement. The resident school district would have the fiscal responsibility for any student enrolled in a private day or residential school;
(8) implements, in the case of a renaissance school project which is not built on land owned by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) or the renaissance school district, a lottery process for enrollment in the renaissance school project that is the same as the lottery process for a renaissance school project built on land owned by the SDA or the renaissance school district;
(9) permits one of the renaissance school projects in a renaissance school district to include a dormitory and related facilities;
(10) permits a renaissance school district to enter into an agreement with an owner or operator of a renaissance school project which would allow the district to use or occupy the facilities of a renaissance school project when the facilities are not immediately necessary for the operation of the renaissance school project;
(11) authorizes the Commissioner of Education to allow individuals who reside outside of the State to be employed at any renaissance school project or charter school located within a renaissance school district, provided the individuals establish residency in the State within five years of their initial date of employment;
(12) provides that a renaissance school project is not subject to the facilities efficiency standards; and
(13) provides that the provisions of the bill apply to all renaissance school projects, including those approved prior to the effective date of the bill.
· Reduce the size of the urban campus area in which a renaissance school project must be located, except in the case in which a high school building is part of the project;
· Reinsert language requiring a renaissance school project application to include the address of the school facility, but only for the initial facility, and also add the requirement that an affirmation be included in the application that any other facility in which the renaissance school project will be located will be situated within the urban campus area. In the case of a school facility other than the initial school facility, the Commissioner of Education will be required to be notified of its location at least one year prior to its opening;
· Allow the first lottery conducted for enrollment in the renaissance school projects to include any student who resides in the renaissance school district. This lottery will no longer be restricted to public school students residing in the district;
· Eliminate language authorizing the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to provide funding for construction of dormitories within a renaissance school project;
· Limit to only the employees of renaissance school projects and charter schools in the renaissance school district the ability, with the Commissioner of Education’s permission, to establish residency within five years of the date of initial employment. Under the bill as introduced, this right was also available to traditional public school employees; and
· Eliminate language permitting the board of education or the municipality of a renaissance school district to issue bonds in order to finance the construction of a renaissance school project.
This bill, as amended, may lead to an increase in State expenditures in the form of additional State school aid provided to a renaissance school district. Under current law, a renaissance school project first enrolls students who reside in the designated attendance area. Under the bill, if space remains available after enrolling these students, students who reside in the renaissance school district, but outside the attendance area, may enter a lottery for enrollment in the renaissance school project. This creates the possibility that a student who attends a nonpublic school may enroll in the renaissance school project, potentially increasing the amount of State school aid that the renaissance school district receives. Given the uncertainty of whether or not space would be available after enrolling students who reside in the attendance area, it is not possible to estimate the potential increase in aid.