Legislative Update - August 25, 2011
Private To Public Charter School Conversion: S-1858/A-2806 (Lesniak/Jasey, Coutinho) The bills were released by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 8-3 on August 25, 2011. The committee amended S-1858 to make it identical to A-2806, which already passed the Assembly. The bill was scheduled for a full Senate vote on the same day, which is only possible through an emergency measure as all bills are required to sit one full calendar day before consideration. The Senate did not consider the bill as it was apparently unable to muster the three-fourths vote needed for an emergency measure. The bills would permit conversion of nonpublic schools to charter schools. As amended, the bill would limit conversion only to “high performing” private schools in districts designated as “in need of improvement” under NCLB. Upon conversion, the school must prohibit religious instruction, events, and activities that promote religious views, and the display of religious symbols. Furthermore, the name of the school cannot include any religious reference. The commissioner would be directed to establish an expedited process for the review of applications. The bill has not yet been scheduled for another vote on the Senate floor. NJEA is neutral on the bill.
$5 Million Supplemental Appropriation For Super-Growth Districts: S-2868 (Sweeney) In its first hearing in the Legislature, this bill passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with amendments and now goes to the Senate for a second reading. It would provide a supplemental appropriation of $5 million from Property Tax Relief to the Department of Education to provide additional state aid to school districts that have experienced significant enrollment growth. The legislation would apply to districts where the projected resident enrollment for October 2011 exceeds the actual October 2008 resident enrollment by at least 13%. Districts in Bergen, Burlington, Cape May, Gloucester, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic and Salem counties qualify, with growth ranging from 13 to 39.2%. NJEA supports the bill because it helps make FY2012 school aid allocated to non-Abbott districts fairer by increasing aid to “super-growth” districts on a per pupil basis that more closely parallels aid to other districts that did not experience rapid enrollment growth.