Charter school authorization expansion bill passes committee

A bill, A3083, that would extend to up to three institutions of higher education a power that now resides with the Education commissioner, to act as additional charter school authorizers, was approved in the Assembly Education Committee Monday.

The prime sponsors include Mila Jasey, (D-27), South Orange, and Albert Coutinho, (D-29), Newark.

Jasey said charter schools have a role to play in the nation, but that lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure any charter school that opens is run by a capable entity.

She said the state has not had the capacity alone to do the job that authorizers are supposed to do.

Supporters, such as Jim Goenner, president and CEO of the National Charter Schools Institute, testified that dependable funding as well as clear delineation of responsibilities are critical if authorizers are to ensure that children are being educated and that charters are being followed.

The bill calls for the establishment of not more than 135 charter schools during the 48 months following the effective date of the act. A minimum of three charter schools shall be allocated to each county, under the bill’s language.

As amended, the bill would establish a three-year contract with an authorizer with options for two one-year extensions.

The bill says that a charter school authorizer may charge a charter school a fee for oversight of the charter school in an amount not to exceed 2% of the base per pupil amount established  for each student enrolled in the charter school. 

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo raised the issue of ensuring that an authorizer is qualified for that role and said he needs to be convinced,  whether an authorizer is Rutgers University or some other higher-education institution, that they will be able to do the job.

The American Federation of Teachers testified that it supported the original version of the bill under which Rutgers University would be the only additional authorizer.

At the other end of the spectrum, the N.J. School Boards Association argued that local districts should be allowed to be authorizers in order to generate locally-backed taxpayer and parental support.

Charter school authorization expansion bill passes committee