State Board Rejects Charter School Certification Rules, Hears From Jersey City School District

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The New Jersey State Board of Education in an unprecedented move rejected part of a Department proposal to modify charter school certification requirements for principals, teachers and business administrators.  The Board also approved fiscal accountability changes for private schools for students with disabilities, received a presentation from Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles and approved changes to the current edTPA rules.  The Board additionally had a first glimpse of changes to the Controversies and Disputes regulation.

Charter Schools

In probably the biggest news of the day, the State Board of Education took the uncharacteristic step Wednesday of rejecting a portion of a proposal pushed by the Christie administration that would have weakened certification requirements for principals, business administrators and teachers.  The proposal was sold as a means to provide more flexibility to charter schools.  The board voted, 5-2-1, with one abstention, to remove the pilot certification program from the overall package of proposed regulatory changes. It then voted, 6-2, to publish the rest of the proposals in the New Jersey Register.

The Certification Proposal

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Several board members, including president Mark Biedron, raised concerns about the different set of standards as a basis for the amendment excluding the certification regulations.

“Over the past three years, we have been raising the bar and adding new requirements to teacher certification,” Biedron said. “Now, with this pilot program, we are being asked to reduce those same requirements … and are being told this is best for our children.”

Board member Edithe Fulton said the state, meanwhile, is increasing standards for those who teach in vocational schools.

“That, to me, is a dichotomy that shouldn’t exist,” she said.

Board members Jack Fornaro and Andrew Mulvihill wanted to keep the certification proposal in place.

Charter school advocates said after the meeting the board’s rejection of the five-year pilot program was a missed opportunity to recruit individuals with industry experience — particularly in the math and science subject areas — or to hire a more diverse teaching staff.  Board members did indicate they were open to future discussions about removing obstacles toward certification, not just for charter schools, but for vocational and traditional public schools as well.

Other items the board is considering would expedite the charter renewal process for high-performing schools; allow single-purpose charter schools to operate; make it easier for charter schools to secure capital funding and facilities; require them to publicly report out their performance; and allow charter schools to run preschool programs. These and other proposals were allowed to move forward this week.

For regulations to be adopted, the board must publish new proposals in the New Jersey Register to trigger a 60-day public comment period before it can take a final vote.

Jersey City

Further, the Board heard from Jersey City Superintendent Marcia Lyles in part of the ongoing presentations by State-operated districts.  Ms. Lyles stated that graduation rates are up at all of our schools and the district overall graduation rate for cohort 2016 was 74.9 percent.

Controversies and Disputes

The Board also received a presentation on proposed changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:3, Controversies and Dispute code.  While the rules remain substantially the same as current rules, the proposal includes several amendments for clarity and stylistic or grammatical improvement, includes some flexibility for pro se litigants and creates some exceptions to general appeal requirements that clarifies that residency petitions may be filed after the statutory time period for automatic continued enrollment has expired, subject to the granting of a motion for emergent relief.  In light of the package’s limited changes, the Board will be expediting the review process, moving to adoption level next month.  NJPSA will be reviewing the proposal in the coming days.

Fiscal Accountability, Efficiency & Budgeting Procedures

The Board moved changes to current Fiscal Accountability regulations as they relate to Private Schools for Students with Disabilities.  Currently 159 APSSDs operate in New Jersey (113 non-profit (about 71%) /46 for-profit (about 29%)) serving approximately 9,900 students.

The proposal would place a seven-year freeze on the maximum allowable salary paid to staff, restrict the use of automobiles that do not transport students to non-luxury vehicles, and require schools to disclose which vendors they do business with, among other stipulations.

The intent is to rein in spending and guard against nepotism.  While reining in some of the spending, the proposed regulatory changes would also afford opportunities for employees in high-demand positions, such as occupational or physical therapists or speech and language specialists, to earn higher salaries.

The board voted Wednesday to publish the proposed rule changes in the New Jersey Register. Once published, there would be a 60-day public comment period before the board could take a final vote.

edTPA Handbook Alignment Resolution

The Board also approved changes to the current list of allowable edTPA handbooks for New Jersey certification areas as it relates to the Technology Education Endorsement Area.

NJ Agricultural Education

Finally, the Board received a presentation from several students on the benefits of New Jersey agricultural education.