What is a Charter School?
The NJ DOE describes it well...
"The state’s charter school law was passed to give parents choices for their children's education. The law is intended to:
- Improve student learning and achievement;
- Increase the availability of choice to parents and students when selecting a learning environment;
- Encourage the use of different and innovative learning methods;
- Establish a new system of accountability for schools;
- Make the school the unit for educational improvement"
Charter school initiatives are a national educational movement with full bipartisan support. New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie stated his support for charter schools plainly in March 2010, at the annual conference of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, where he was the keynote speaker.
See this PDF document to clear up some common myths about charter schools.
Some history and context...
Minnesota passed the first charter school legislation in 1991. Today, in New Jersey, there are a total of 68 approved charter schools in 15 counties - six of which opened in 2009 alone. For the 2008-2009 school year, charter schools served more than 17,000 students - and as of September 2009, that number grew to over 22,000.
Charter schools are independently managed public schools and are open to all students. Charter schools do not charge tuition, and do not use have entrance exams to select pupils. If a charter school is oversubscribed, a lottery is held to choose students, and a waiting list maintained for those children still hoping to get in.
Charter schools are publicly funded. They receive funds based upon the number of students who attend the school. In New Jersey, funding follows the student from the sending district. Traditional school districts in which a charter school is located do not fund students who live in other districts.
Although they are public schools, charter schools operate independently from the local boards of education. They are free to select their own educational program, hire teachers, and control their budget.
Charter schools can be organized by parents, teachers, other community organizations or by a combination group.
Charter schools offer a higher level of public school accountability. Unlike other public schools, charter schools exist on a limited term contract and have no guaranteed source of revenue or students. To remain in existence, they must achieve their charters' goals and attract a sufficient number of students.
Charter schools must hire teachers who are fully certified. Charter schools give inspiring, superior teachers the chance to do all they are capable of. Visionary teachers who longed for greater autonomy than their previous teaching positions permitted have developed many charter schools across the nation.
(Primary source: New Jersey Charter School Resource Center)
CHARTER SCHOOL LEGISLATION:
18A:36A-2. Legislative findings and declaration The Legislature finds and declares that the establishment of charter schools as part of this State's program of public education can assist in promoting comprehensive educational reform by providing a mechanism for the implementation of a variety of educational approaches which may not be available in the traditional public school classroom. Specifically, charter schools offer the potential to improve pupil learning; increase for students and parents the educational choices available when selecting the learning environment which they feel will be the most appropriate; encourage the use of different and innovative learning methods; establish a new form of accountability for schools; require the measurement of learning outcomes; make the school the unit for educational improvement; and establish new professional opportunities for teachers. The Legislature further finds that the establishment of a charter school program is in the best interests of the State and it is therefore the public policy of the State to encourage and facilitate the development of charter schools.