State Board Gets First Glimpse At Charter School Proposal As NJ Teacher of the Year Named

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The New Jersey State Board of Education had an opportunity to review a new proposal to provide charter schools significant flexibility.  The Board also honored the new State Teacher of the Year, Argine Safari, and received a presentation on Human Trafficking.

Charter Flexibility Regulations Unveiled

In maybe the most impactful news of the day, the Department unveiled an aggressive regulatory package aimed at providing charter schools significant flexibility.  The proposed rules, would, among other things, establish a five year pilot to allow ‘high performing’ charters to relax certification rules for teachers, school leaders, and business administrators.

Other changes include a provision to require enhanced reciprocity between charter schools and host districts where a charter school student seeks to participate in extra curricular activities, as well as a provision that would allow charter schools enhanced ability to obtain financing for leases of school space.  The proposal also calls for a ‘right of first refusal’ to charters in host districts of space the host district plans to mothball.  It would also allow charters to an expedited renewal process, permit multiple campuses under one charter and permit a single purpose charter school as well as a weighted lottery.

In addition, the proposal would eliminate Executive County Superintendent approval of professional development plans, among other items, instead transferring that responsibility to the Charter School Office.

The Department spent time providing the Board with background statistics on how well charter schools are performing in comparison to host districts as a basis for the enhanced flexibility.

A number of the Board members requested that the Board carefully review the proposals even if it took more than the customary two meeting cycle to plow through the proposal.  Public testimony is expected next month on the proposal.

NJPSA is carefully reviewing the proposal and is expected to testify on it at next month’s public testimony session.

New Jersey Teacher of the Year Named

Further, the Board honored the New Jersey Teacher of the Year, Argine Safari, as well as her fellow finalists.  Ms. Safari, a vocal music teacher, currently teaches as Pascack Valley High School.  Ms. Safari has been an educator for 20 years.

Human Trafficking Presentation

In addition, the Board received a presentation on Human Trafficking.  The Department has teamed up with a number of State agencies, education stakeholders and non-profit providers to provide additional information on this issue for the State.

Interdistrict Public School Choice

Moreover, the Board began the process of readoption, without amendment of the current Interdistrict Public School Choice regulation to allow additional time to make changes to the code.  The code is due to sunset in December.

Student Residency

Similarly, the student residency provision had a first appearance at the October Board meeting to also allow time for future revision in light of impending sunset.

Regulatory Flexibility and Relief Package

In housekeeping news, the Board also had a second discussion on changes to several code provisions that the Department argues will create additional efficiencies for districts and the State.

Changes are proposed for the following titles:

  • N.J.A.C. 6A:3, Controversies and Disputes
  • N.J.A.C. 6A:9, Professional Standards
  • N.J.A.C. 6A:11, Charter Schools
  • N.J.A.C. 6A:32, School District Operations

The changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:9, Professional Standards, are particularly germane to school leaders as it updates the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders to the 2015 standards which:

  • Are set forth by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration; and
  • Are considered to be a complete “refresh” of the ISLLC 2008 standards

The change has long been recommended by the State Professional Learning Committee  (which includes school districts, universities, and NJPSA).

Fiscal Accountability Efficiency Budgeting Procedures

The Department also proposed technical changes to chapters 16-22 of the current Fiscal Accountability,  Efficiency and Budgeting regulations.   Chapter 23A is divided into 2 major sections:

  • Commissioner has purview over sub-chapters 1-15
  • State Board has purview over sub-chapters 16-22

The current chapter is set to expire November 25, 2016.  This proposal is a re-adoption with only  technical amendments.  It is the Department expectation that they will do a substantive review with future rulemaking of Subchapters 16-22 which include rules related to: GAAP accounting, tuition calculations, student residency, public school contracts, and charter financial operations.

It is also hoped that they will be able to simultaneously move the subchapters under Commissioner review (1-15).  These sub-chapters include rules related to: definitions, ECS duties, school district fiscal accountability, travel policies, budget development & review, and state aid for charter schools.

Certification of School Districts

Finally, the Board approved 16 New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) reviews (15 full and 1 interim reviews) as outlined in Appendix A.  Seven districts scored 80 percent or above in all five QSAC areas and was certified for a three year period.  Five districts scored below 80% in one or more QSAC areas and is required to implement a QSAC improvement plans to address deficient indicators.