Charter School Reform Bill Signed Into Law

TRENTON – Legislation that would make it easier to create charter schools in failing school districts was officially signed into law on Thursday.

“With this legislation signed today, we are taking another step to expand access to high quality school options to ensure that more students are stepping into classrooms that will give them a better education and a brighter future,” said Gov. Chris Christie. “We have much further to go to reform education in New Jersey and ensure we are getting results for all children, regardless of their zip code.

“Charter schools have a role to play as we undertake significant education reform measures,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), who sponsored the bill. “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.”

The new law (A-2806) will permit high-performing non-public schools in failing school districts to convert to charter schools upon approval of an expedited application by the state. The application must certify that upon conversion to charter school status 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 cannot include any religious reference.

Under the law, the Commissioner of Education is directed to establish an expedited process for the review of such applications.

“Charter schools, if done correctly, can be a vital part in improving our public education system and ensuring quality education for our children,” Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Newark) 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, which passed the Assembly by a vote of 59-14-4 in June and the Senate by a vote of 25-13 in September, was sponsored by Jasey and Coutinho in the Assembly and state Senators Ray Lesniak (D-Union) and Donald Norcross (D-Camden, Gloucester).

Christie chastised lawmakers for failing to act on four other bills that are part of his education reform plan, including one that would create a pilot program to allow businesses to receive tax credits for providing scholarships that would enable low-income students to attend private schools.

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