Time to rejuvenate NJ charter school law: Opinion

By Carlos Perez

Charter schools were created on the premise that educators would be given the freedom to innovate in exchange for greater accountability, a heightened expectation of student achievement and the testing of ideas that could be incorporated into traditional public schools.

Since the New Jersey Legislature first created charter schools in 1995, they have met and often exceeded expectations for their academic performance, as well as student demand. Public charter schools serve more than 30,000 students in 87 schools.

According to state data, public charter schools are graduating nearly 94 percent of their students from high schools compared with the state’s overall high school graduation rate of 84 percent. Charter schools are succeeding in the toughest districts with the hardest-to-reach populations, and they are providing evidence that the achievement gap can be closed. The data on results speak volumes, but the 20,000 children on wait-lists speak even louder.

But 1995 was a long time ago. Much has changed, and the law that created public charter schools is no longer sufficient. New Jersey and the nation have learned a great deal in 17 years about how to serve and support the tens of thousands of children and their families who rely on a public charter school education. Now is the time to update New Jersey’s charter school law.

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