Private urban charter schools OK’d
Jason Method, Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON — Two Democratic proposals for education reform overwhelmingly passed the Legislature late Monday, heralding what could become a spring full of new initiatives aimed at changing public education.

State Sen. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, brother of longtime South Jersey Democratic boss George E. Norcross III, sponsored both bills.

The first would eliminate school budget votes for any school districts that have their annual elections moved to November and if the district’s budget does not exceed the state’s property tax cap.

Ending statewide school budget elections would end what has been a political tradition in New Jersey for more than a century. The bill passed with a 34-3 vote in the state Senate and a 62-11 vote, with two abstentions, in the state Assembly.

Gov. Chris Christie had not taken a position on the school elections bill by late Monday.

The second measure, called the Urban Hope Act, allows for up to four privately operated public schools to be authorized and built each in Newark, Trenton and Camden. In Camden, officials are specifically targeting the new Lanning Square School, to fall under the program.

The bill permits school districts to allow a nonprofit to build and operate schools. The nonprofit will be paid nearly all of the per-student costs associated with each student.

The Urban Hope Act passed the Senate on a 35-3 vote and the Assembly 56-17 on Monday night. Christie is expected to sign it.


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