Senate committee to consider two schools-related bills

TRENTON – The Senate will work on two schools-related bills next week.

The Budget and Appropriations Committee will consider a charter school conversion proposal and a supplemental appropriation effort on Thursday.

S1858, sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Union, would permit non-public schools to convert to charter schools. Its Assembly companion, A2806, was approved by that chamber in June.

The issue of charter schools has been contentious in New Jersey, with opponents calling them an attack on public education and supporters seeing them as an alternative to a failing system.

Lesniak’s bill, among other things, would require that such a charter school prohibit religious instruction, and would require the state Education commissioner to expedite reviews of such applications.

In addition, the students of the converted non-public school could enroll in the charter school, which could be located in the same building as the former non-public school.

Teachers and other staff of the converted non-public school could continue employment at the charter school under certain conditions.

Supplemental appropriation

S2868 would provide a supplemental appropriation of $4.98 million to the Department of Education to provide additional state school aid to certain districts that have had significant enrollment growth since the 2008-09 school year.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, would stipulate that in order to qualify for the extra money, the district’s projected enrollment for October 2011 must be greater than its October 2008 enrollment by at least 13 percent.

“An eligible district would receive aid equal to the change in the resident enrollment between October 2008 and October 2011 multiplied by the per pupil amount of equalization aid, special education and security categorical aids, and adjustment aid received in the 2008-2009 school year,” the bill states.

The percentage of enrollment change had been amended from 15 to 13 percent in order to make a greater number of districts eligible for the aid.

A3961, the companion bill, has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

Senate committee to consider two schools-related bills