Connecticut Copycats NJ Charter School Law

Adam Emerson over at Fordham’s Education Gadfly analyzes a new charter school bill proposed in the Connecticut Legislature that would impose an “opt-out” lottery, requiring all charters to offer enrollment to every student in the district, regardless of whether a parent or child has expressed interest. Why do we care? Because it’s the same template used by some of New Jersey’s anti-charter school legislators in proposing Assembly Bill 3356, which was euthanized in the Statehouse last year.

In fact, Emerson notes that the NJ bill had the support of Save Our Schools NJ, “a vocal advocacy group that sees school choice as a threat to students who remain in public schools. Mercifully, the bill sponsor agreed to table the legislation this year after charter operators convinced him that the lottery would tax their operations.”

The Connecticut bill, SB 24, emerged, says Emerson, “from a closed-door meeting with union leaders and Democratic chairs of the state’s joint education committee and follows attempts in at least one other state [that’s the Jersey segue] to get around the issue of ‘creaming’ in school choice.”

Indeed, NJ’s version of the bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Albert Coutinho and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who both list NJEA as one of their top campaign contributors. In a harbinger of Connecticut’s wrangling, charter school advocates in NJ argued that the bill would unfairly force charter school to canvas every family in town, augment costs and complexities, and ultimately undermine the concept of school choice.

Concludes Emerson, “[b]ut this may be what the Connecticut teacher unions had in mind: burden charters with a taxing mandate that mutes the concept of parental choice. “If you can’t beat them,” said Lisa Grover, state advocacy director for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, “then at least you can make their lives difficult.”

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