1 - What are charter schools?

Charter schools are independent public schools that provide another education option to parents and students. They were created to give educators and parents the freedom to innovate and develop successful teaching models to increase student achievement. Because a charter school is not managed by the local school district, it is free to design the environment it believes will best serve students' needs.
High-quality charter schools are making a difference. Across the country, charter schools are associated with higher proficiency rates in math and English, as well as higher rates of high school diploma attainment.
Charter schools don’t charge tuition and don’t require any entrance exams or interviews. All children who live within a charter school’s district, including children with special needs, are eligible to attend a charter school on a space-available basis.

2 - Why are they called charter schools?

Because the plan for each school becomes its charter, subject to approval by the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE).

3 - What makes charters public schools?

A public school is defined as a school that is open to the public, funded by the public and accountable to the public. Charter schools meet all three tests. They must be open to all students on a space available basis including students with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Charters cannot select students based on skills, ability or past performance, have a selective admissions policy, charge tuition, and or have a religious focus or affiliation.

4 - What makes charters schools of choice?

Charter schools are just one more option for parents to choose from when making decisions about what’s best for their child and the child’s educational needs and learning style. Not every option is going to be the best fit for every child. That’s why having a choice among various schools becomes an important advantage for parents.

5 - Who can start a charter school?

Educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs and others design charter schools. Founders of charter schools must include at least some teachers and parents who live in the school district where the charter school will be established.

6 - What makes charter schools independent?

Charter schools are not bound by the rules, oversight and policies of the local school district. That means they can be free to have a longer school day or school year or offer programming that it thinks best suits its students without having to get permission from a local school board, which are many times elected. In other words, charter schools can keep politics out of policies.

7 - Who funds charter school facilities?

Charter schools do not receive funding for their facilities and cannot access the funds available under New Jersey’s public school construction program. Charter schools pay for their facilities out of their operational budgets supplemented by fundraising efforts.

8 - Can charter schools be closed?

If a charter school fails to meet the objectives of its charter or to comply with state education standards, the school can be closed or subjected to intermediate sanctions. The fact that charter schools can be closed is unique to public education.

9 - How are charter schools monitored?

In New Jersey, charter schools are comprehensively reviewed and renewed by the DOE after an initial four-year period and afterward in successive five-year periods and are subject to annual financial audits and reporting requirements with periodic program reviews.

10 - Do charter schools meet New Jersey’s core curriculum content standards or offer standardized tests?

Charter schools are required by law to meet the same academic standards and assessment requirements adopted by the New Jersey Board of Education for all public schools.

11 - Do Charter schools get funding for special needs children?

Yes. Charter schools also receive 100% of state and federal categorical aid attributable to individual students for such needs as special education, early childhood programs and bilingual programs, again distributed through their local districts.

12 - How are charter schools funded in New Jersey?

Like any public school, charter schools are free, and are funded by taxpayer dollars. However, there are significant disparities between the per-pupil rates passed on to charter schools and traditional schools, caused mainly by the exclusion of charter schools from state adjustment aid payments . According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a 2010 study showed that New Jersey charter schools were receiving on average $12,908 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $19,782 for those students. As a result, the state’s charters are getting 35% less than traditional schools.

13 - How are charter schools held accountable?

Charter schools are accountable to several constituents. A charter school that is not valued and is not performing at high levels for kids is not going to get students in the door and will close. Parents will simply vote with their feet.
Charter schools also provide detailed information annually to the state department of education, who is charged with ensuring the soundness of the educational program at the school, the performance of students on standardized tests, as well as the school’s fiscal stewardship. A school must prove its success annually, and reapply for its charter renewal every five years.

14 - Are charter schools required to meet all public school regulations?

Unlike the vast majority of charters around the country that operate with much more autonomy, New Jersey charter school must follow virtually all public-school regulations. The New Jersey Charter Schools Association is urging lawmakers to update the state’s charter law to increase accountability and quality benchmarks for charter schools in exchange for a decrease in the administrative paperwork that doesn’t at all contribute to high academic achievement .

15 - How are charter schools created in NJ?

A charter school can be created through a successful application to the New Jersey DOE to start a new school or an application to convert an existing public school to a charter school.

16 - When can a district public school convert to a charter public school?

A public school may convert to a charter school if at least 51% of the teaching staff working in the school and 51% of the parents or guardians of children attending the school sign a petition asking for the conversion.

17 - Who can apply for and receive a school charter in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Charter School Program Act of 1995 allows the following to establish charter schools: teaching staff, parents with children attending the schools of the district or a combination of the two; also higher education institutions or private entities located within the state in conjunction with teaching staff members and parents of children attending the schools of the district.

18 - How many charter schools can be authorized in NJ?

There is no longer a limit to the number of charter schools that can be established. The New Jersey Charter School Program Act of 1995 requires a minimum of three charter schools to be allocated to each county.

19 - What are NJ s charter application deadlines?

Charter applications are due to the state DOE by July 15th each year. Those interested in applying are encouraged to. However, we encourage you to contact the DOE Charter School Office (609-292-5850) as early as possible to participate in training sessions and assure use of correct application forms and an understanding of deadlines. Announcements of charter awards or denials are made by January 15th of the following year.

20 - Can a school charter be revoked and if so on what grounds?

Yes, subject to established rules and procedures, a charter may be revoked or denied renewal by the commissioner of education if the school has not fulfilled any condition imposed in connection with the grant of the charter or if the school violates state laws or regulations.

21 - What reports must New Jersey charter schools provide?

The governing body of the charter school is required to submit an annual progress report to the local board of education, the county superintendent of schools, and the commissioner of education no later than August 1steach year. The report must also be made available to the parents or guardians of a student enrolled in the charter school.

22 - Are there charter school enrollment restrictions?

New Jersey charter schools must be open to every child on a space available basis regardless of race, religion, disability, intellectual, academic or athletic ability, English proficiency or any other basis that would be illegal in district schools. Charter schools may limit admission to a particular grade level or to areas of concentration of the school, such as mathematics, science or the arts; in which case, reasonable criteria to evaluate prospective students must be outlined in the school s charter.

23 - Are there charter school enrollment preferences?

New Jersey’s charter schools will accept applications from students who live “out of area” with a few caveats. Charter schools first accept applications from students living within the charter school’s local school district and if places are unfilled can then accept out-of-district children.

24 - Can a child attend any charter school in New Jersey even if there are no charter schools in the school district in which the child is?

New Jersey’s charter schools will accept applications from students who live “out of area” with a few caveats. Charter schools first accept applications from students living within the charter school’s local school district and if places are unfilled can then accept out-of-district children.

25 - Do charter school provide school transportation?

Yes, transportation to and from a charter school is provided for students who reside in the district of residence or region of residence of the charter school on the same terms and conditions as transportation is provided to students attending district schools. Transportation also may be provided to students with disabilities as required by each individual education program (IEP).

26 - How does a person apply to be a teacher in a New Jersey charter school?

Employment inquiries can be made directly to any charter school at any time. Or, visit www.njschooljobs.com, where many charter schools will post their job openings. Note that any public school employee can request a leave of absence of up to three years from the local board of education to work in a charter school.

27 - Must someone be certified to teach at a charter school?

Charter schools are required to employ certified teachers. Teaching candidates must hold or be working towards New Jersey licensing.

28 - Are charter school students allowed to participate in extracurricular activities in the school districts where they live?

Yes, a district board of education may permit charter school students to participate in the home district’s extracurricular activities including athletics for which the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association makes such decisions.

29 - Can a charter school require parental participation?

Most if not all charter schools greatly encourage parental involvement in the schools but they do not and cannot require it.