What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school open to all students on a space-available basis that operates independently of the district board of education under a charter granted by the Commissioner. Once the charter is approved by the Commissioner, the school is governed by a board of trustees deemed to be public agents authorized by the State Board of Education to supervise and control the school. A charter school is a body corporate and politic with all powers necessary for carrying out its charter program.
What is the relationship between the charter school and the district board of education where it is established?
The charter school operates independently of the district board of education; however, funding for the charter school comes from the state and local taxpayers through the district board of education.
Is transportation provided for charter school students?
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 the schools of the district board(s) of education. The New Jersey Administrative Code, Student Transportation section outlines specific procedures and responsibilities regarding the transportation of students from the district of residence or region of residence, as well as non-resident students. The code addresses charter school transportation at N.J.A.C. 6A:27-3. In addition, transportation will be provided to students with disabilities as required by each individual education program (IEP).
Are charter schools required to meet all public school regulations?
Yes. However, the Charter School Program Act of 1995 (N.J.S.A. 18A:36A) specifically exempts charter schools from public school facility regulations except those pertaining to the health and safety of the students. The act also provides that the board of trustees of the charter school may request, from the Commissioner, waivers from other state regulations concerning public schools, except those pertaining to assessment, testing, civil rights, special education and student health and safety.
How will parents and community groups be involved in the planning and operation of a charter school?
The Charter School Program Act of 1995 requires charter schools to provide a description of the procedures to be implemented to ensure significant parental involvement in the operation of the school as part of the 2008 New Jersey Charter School Application. The act also requires that the applicant provide information on the manner in which community groups will be involved in the charter school planning process. Parents and representatives of community organizations may be involved as founders and members of the board of trustees of a charter school.
Are charter schools subject to the finance and business service code, N.J.A.C. 6A:23?
Yes, charter schools must adhere to all regulations outlined in the finance and business services code.
Is there a deadline for age eligibility for a student to enter kindergarten in a charter school?
Yes, a charter school must enroll a student selected for admission to kindergarten based on the student reaching the age of five in that school year by:
- October 1 in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:38-5; or
- A date earlier than October 1 that is established by the district board of education in which the student resides.
Are students with educational disabilities, English language learners (ELL) and at-risk students eligible to attend a charter school?
A charter school is a public school open to all students. Students with educational disabilities, ELLs or at-risk students are eligible to attend a charter school on the same basis as all other students. The Charter School Program Act of 1995 provides that any categorical aid attributable to students be paid to the charter school. It also requires charter schools to comply with current law and regulation regarding the provision of services to students with educational disabilities, ELLs or at-risk students.
Is the board of trustees of a charter school held to the same financial guidelines as the district board of education? Yes, the board of trustees of a charter school must:
Comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:4-14 and N.J.A.C. 6A:23;
Develop an accounting system that is organized and operated on a fund basis;
Ensure that the accounting system provides the basis for appropriate budgetary control;
Submit to the Commissioner a budget summary, budget narrative and cash flow statement for the subsequent fiscal year on or before March 30 of each year; and
Prepare monthly financial statements and reports of financial condition and operating results.
How will charter schools be funded?
A charter school will be funded based on its student enrollment. Funding will flow from the state to the district board of education and then to the charter school. The district in which a student attending the charter school resides will pay the lower of either 90 percent of the program budget per pupil for the specific grade level in the district or 90 percent of the maximum T&E amount. For any student enrolled in a charter school in which 90 percent of the program budget per pupil for the specific grade level is greater than 90 percent of the maximum T&E amount, the state pays the difference between the two amounts directly to the charter school. The act also provides that the cost for non-resident students will be based on the per-pupil amount for the specific grade level of the district in which the student resides and capped by the program budget per pupil for the specific grade level in the district in which the charter school is located.
May a charter school charge tuition?
No, the Charter School Program Act of 1995 specifically prohibits a charter school from charging tuition.