Gov. Christie Proposes New Jersey Charter School Reforms

Published July 7, 2016

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has proposed a series of reforms that he says would reduce regulation of charter schools in the state.

Christie has showed support for charter schools since taking office. During a news conference in March, Christie said charter schools are a “salvation for families, especially in failing urban districts,” and he told legislators, “If you try to stick it to charter schools, I will veto any bill.”

During the New Jersey Charter Schools Conference in May, Christie proposed several reforms aimed at giving the schools greater flexibility. These include allowing schools to hire teachers who meet the school’s own standards for certification to fill the growing number of teaching positions, greater access to public funds to upgrade facilities, and an expedited accreditation-renewal process. Christie also proposed allowing the creation of single-sex and special-purpose schools, such as institutions catering to older students.

Christie’s proposals received strong criticism from the state’s teachers union. The proposals must receive approval from the New Jersey State Board of Education.

‘Welcome Changes’

Janellen Duffy, executive director of the charter advocacy group JerseyCAN, says Christie’s proposals reflect the needs of the state’s charter schools.

“There has been tremendous growth and improvement with respect to charter schools under Gov. Christie,” Duffy said. “These reforms truly reflect feedback from the field and draw on best practices from other cities and states throughout the country. These are welcome changes that will allow charter schools to better serve the needs of students and families across New Jersey.”

‘Incentive to Succeed’

Donna Siminski, policy director of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, says Christie’s proposals will give charters more freedom to improve on their own.

“The standards seek to take student performance and growth into account, along with finance issues, to create one whole picture,” Siminski said. “While charter schools often don’t know where they stand with respect to renewing their accreditation, the proposed regulations aim to provide schools an opportunity to know what they need to do to succeed.

“There are 89 charter schools operating in New Jersey, with over 40,000 pupils in attendance,” Siminski said. “There are an additional 20,000 students currently on waiting lists. The new regulations will allow schools to grow, be independent, and be responsible for their own success. Given the amount of work involved in starting a charter school, there is substantial incentive to succeed.”

Glen Sproviero ([email protected]) writes from Fair Haven, New Jersey.