TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono announced legislation Monday that would reject a recent attempt by the Christie Administration to expand its ability to approve new charter schools without going through the traditional review process.
“This is a dangerous expansion of the Department of Education’s power to create new charter schools,” said Buono, D-Middlesex. “It is possible that an existing charter school in Newark or Camden could open up a completely new school in New Brunswick or Trenton under the guise of a ‘satellite campus’- without ever having to go through the full charter school review process.”
“This brazen move by the Christie Administration goes way beyond their authority to regulate charter schools,” added Buono. “Only the legislature can change the requirements of opening a charter school. It’s just another example of Christie Administration bureaucrats ignoring the democratic process.”
Buono’s proposed resolution rejects two aspects of the new proposed charter school regulations. The first is the creation of a new entity known as a “satellite campus” that would essentially be a new and separate school created under an existing charter. Currently, every new charter school must apply for, and receive, an individual charter, but the amendment procedure through which satellite campuses would be created will not require the same stringent application and approval process.
“The clear intent of the law is that every new charter school must have its own charter and go through an open and transparent approval process,” explained Buono. “These new regulations, in contradiction of the original law, would allow the holder of an existing charter to create multiple charter schools in disparate communities without undergoing the same scrutiny.”
The second proposed regulation change rejected by Buono’s resolution is the elimination of the requirement that districts in a charter’s “region of residence” be contiguous. As the law stands now, if a charter wants to serve children from more than one school district, those districts must be adjacent to one another.
“It makes little sense to allow charters to cherry-pick districts from across the state with little proximity to one another. After all, the original intent of the charter school law was to allow groups of concerned parents create new schools within their own communities in order to better met the educational needs of their children,” said Buono.
Buono’s resolution begins the process of invalidating the proposed new charter school regulations. Once both the Senate and Assembly pass concurrent resolutions declaring the regulations as against legislative intent, the State Board of Education will have 30 days to amend or withdraw the proposed regulations.
Buono’s concurrent resolution awaits assignment to a committee for a hearing.