State Assembly Approves Charter Reform Bills
If approved by Senate and Governor, bills would require voter approval and more accountability.
The State Assembly on Wednesday night approved bills that would reform the way charter schools operate, sending a message to the Senate, which has not yet voted on its version of those bills.
Save Our Schools NJ has been lobbying both the Assembly and the Senate to give voters the right to decide whether they want charter schools in their districts and to make charters more accountable. Supporters said they felt as if they were getting closer to what they’ve been fighting for when the Assembly voted in favor of the voter approval bill (A3852) by 47-17 with 14 abstentions.
The other bill (A3356) which ensures that charter schools have financial, educational transparency and accountability and demographically represent their communities, was also approved. The Senate has not taken action on any of the bills.
Millburn Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Crisfield said the Assembly vote was great news but the bills still have a long way to go.
“I am worried about the bills never getting ‘released’ for a vote in the Senate,” he said, adding even if they did, there would still be the possibility of a veto by Gov. Chris Christie.
Members of Save Our Schools NJ are “very happy that A 3852 and A3356 passed the Assembly with bi-partisan support,” said Julia Sass Rubin of Save Our Schools New Jersey. “As the Rutgers-Eagleton poll released yesterday confirmed, by a more than 3 to 1 margin, New Jersey residents want the local approval requirement to be in place for all new charter schools. This is true for Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We look forward to the Senate following the Assembly's lead and quickly passing these two bills to fix our state's broken charter school law."
Codey said if so-called “boutiques” like the Mandarin-immersion charter schools proposed for Livingston and Maplewood that would draw from neighoboring districts such as Millburn and West Orange, are approved, the “the domino effect would be mind boggling.”
He also urged the rally crowd to contact their senators, as well as the governor and the commissioner of education because he feared the bills would not get heard in the Senate in time and that the governor and the commissioner would have the final say on the current proposed Mandarin-immersion charter schools.
Districts are waiting on word about whether the state is going to approve those charters that could start pulling students and 90 percent of the per pupil costs away from districts as soon as the fall of 2012.
In response to the rally and the call for voter approval, Carlos Perez of the New Jersey Charter School Association released a statement saying, “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.”