NJ Channels NH in Charter School Laws

There’s two good pieces on charter schools in the papers today: John Mooney in NJ Spotlight looks at the tiny charter school office at the DOE, charged with approving or rejecting applicants who aspire to start these autonomous public schools. And the Asbury Park Press examines the current battle between Save Our Schools-NJ, which is lobbying hard for a new charter school bill that would subject every new charter to a community vote, and charter school advocates like Carlos Perez of the NJ Charter School Association, who view these new bills as both redundant and a thinly-veiled attempt to curtail charter school growth. Explains Perez,
“If a charter school doesn’t have enough enrollment, it can’t open its doors,” he said. “Charter schools are created to fill a void in the traditional public school curriculum. They’re established to meet some specific need — a more diverse math program, more sophisticated science courses, cultural and language immersion, environment-centered studies — that is not being met by other schools in the district. If a significant number of parents don’t think a void exists, the local effort to form a school would go nowhere.”
The Asbury Park Press piece notes that among the 39 states in the country that have charter schools, only one – New Hampshire – requires a public vote for a new charter school approval. That requirement is part of the reason that New Hampshire received a “D” from the Center for Education Reform for its charter school laws. NH's total public school enrollment is 194,022. Out of almost 200,000 students, only 816 attend charter schools. From the Nashua Telegraph:
Despite the movement up the list over the past year, New Hampshire remains one of nine states that “severely constrains charter school growth,” according to Todd Ziebarth, lead author of the report “Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws.” The report analyzed the country’s 41 state charter school laws and scored how well it believed they allowed for quality and growth.

“New Hampshire’s law needs significant improvements in several areas, most immediately removing the pilot nature of the program,” Ziebarth wrote. “The state also needs to ensure equitable operational and categorical funding, provide equitable access to capital funding and facilities, and provide additional authorizing options for charter applicants.”
If our role model for effective charter school laws is New Hampshire, maybe we ought to aim a little higher.

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