Christie signs charter school conversion bill

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie gave his approval to A2806, which permits nonpublic schools to convert to charter schools through an application to the Commissioner of Education.

Under the new law, the application to convert to a charter must certify that, upon conversion, the school will prohibit religious instruction; events and activities that promote religious views; and the display of religious symbols. The name of the proposed charter school also cannot include any religious reference.

Assembly sponsors Mila Jasey (D-27), of South Orange, and Albert Coutinho (D-29), of Newark, applauded the governor’s approval today.

“Charter schools have a role to play as we undertake significant education reform measures,” said Jasey in a release. “The intention was never to replace regular public schools but rather to provide schools where new approaches and strategies could be tested and then, where successful, shared with their counterparts.”

Under the new law, the education commissioner is directed to establish an expedited process for application review and must grant a charter application for the conversion of a nonpublic school provided that the school is either high-performing (as determined by the commissioner) or engaging the services of a charter management organization approved by the commissioner.

The bill permits the former students of the converted school to enroll in the charter school and provides that preference for any remaining enrollment spaces for the charter school for its first year, and for all enrollment spaces in each successive year, be provided according to existing law. The bill also permits teaching staff and other employees of the nonpublic school, under certain conditions, to continue employment at the charter school upon its conversion. Under the bill, such a charter school may continue to be located in the same building that housed the nonpublic school prior to conversion to charter school status.

“Charter schools, if done correctly, can be a vital part in improving our public education system and ensuring quality education for our children,” Coutinho said. “By removing some of the obstacles to creating charter schools, we’ll be opening the door to a better future for many children while ensuring the proper oversight is in place for a quality education.”

The bill passed the Assembly, 59-14-4, in June and the Senate, 25-13, in September.

Christie signs charter school conversion bill