The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its sixth annual report this week that ranks state charter laws. (See Ann Whalen for an overview.) Last year New Jersey was ranked 32nd among the 43 states and the District of Columbia that have charter school laws. This year we dropped to 34th. States are judged in twenty categories based on the “essential components of a strong charter school law,” with emphases on accountability, access, and oversight.
Our charter school law isn’t worse than last year. It’s just that a couple of other states have passed improvements, a task that seems beyond the capabilities of N.J. lawmakers, despite a couple of proposals, currently in legislative purgatory, that would tweak our twenty-year old bill. The primary weaknesses, which most legislators know without NAPCS telling them, is that we have only one person who authorizes new charters (the Education Commissioner) and our funding for facilities is inadequate, i.e., non-existent.
Here’s N.J.’s overview from NAPCS: :
- Changes in 2014 New Jersey’s score remained at 116 points. Its ranking went from #32 to #34.
- Recommendations New Jersey’s law does not contain caps on public charter school growth and provides a fair amount of accountability, but it includes only a single authorizing path and provides insufficient autonomy and inequitable funding to charters.
- Potential areas for improvement include expanding authorizer options for applicants, ensuring authorizer accountability, providing adequate authorizer funding, increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
In two of the twenty categories we received a “0.”
- The state law includes some of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational funding and equal access to all state and federal categorical funding, and evidence demonstrates an equity gap between district and charter students of greater than 30 percent.
- The state law includes none of the model law’s provisions for adequate authorizer funding.