The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools Committee held a hearing on Monday, July 20, on the charter school accountability process.

Sharon Seyler, NJSBA legislative advocate, testified at the hearing.  The discussion focused on the current law regarding charter school monitoring.  New Jersey currently requires charter schools to provide annual performance, financial, and operational data to the local board of education, the county superintendent of schools, and the commissioner of education. The law also requires that these reports be made available to the parents or guardians of enrolled students. State Board of Education rules require the education commissioner to prescribe the format of these reports, which must include evidence of how the school is achieving the mission, goals, and objectives of its charter as measured against the performance framework, as well as evidence of financial compliance using generally accepted accounting principles.

The conversation focused on QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum), which is the current monitoring system for traditional public schools not necessarily having to be the model of accountability. The possibility of a blended model, created by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to accommodate both traditional public schools and charter schools, was discussed.

One point that was mentioned was the probation period for charter schools. Currently, if schools are underperforming (based on a performance matrix), they are given one year of probation to improve performance. Seyler discussed the possibility of lengthening the time given to improve performance and turn a school around.

NJSBA’s position is that the application of ethics and accountability standards to both charter schools and traditional public school districts should be consistent.

There was also testimony by the NJDOE, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Charter School Association, the New Jersey Education Association and the Save our Schools parent group.