Assemblyman Diegnan seeks six-month moratorium before approving new online charter schools

By John Mooney

As students continue to sign up for New Jersey’s first experiments with online charter schools, one leading legislator is asking the state to slow down.

Credit: Amanda Brown Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex).
State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly’s education committee, said yesterday that he is preparing legislation that would seek at least a six-month moratorium on new online charters.

If approved, how much impact the bill would have is uncertain. Five charters that are either full-time or so-called hybrid online schools have already been approved, although not yet granted final charters.

Diegnan yesterday said he wasn’t seeking to stop them from opening this fall. But he wanted to send a high-profile message that the state shouldn’t move too fast with a scheme that has more than its share of critics, if not outright opponents.

“I’m not looking for a long-term moratorium but something short term so we can at least get some information,” Diegnan said in an interview. “Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a time out.”

Expected to be filed in June, the legislation comes as online charter schools continue to gain a foothold in the state, but also draw increasing concerns on a number of fronts.

The largest of the five schools, the New Jersey Virtual Academy, has already signed up its full complement of 850 students for next year. The charter, based out of Newark, would be managed and staffed by the nation’s largest online education company, K12 Inc.


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