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Agenda: State Board Takes Breather from PARCC, Takes Up Procedural Matters

Charter school funding, county commissions and religious holidays fill light agenda

state seal

*Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Time: 10 a.m.

Where: New Jersey Department of Education, 1st-floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton

What they are doing: The State Board will have one of its quieter meetings of the last few months, taking a month off from the debates over PARCC testing, student opt-outs and teacher evaluations. But there are a couple of important matters, including a charter schools regulation that shields their surpluses from districts and another two resolutions to expand the reach of the state’s special services commissions. The board will also take the final vote on the annual religious holiday calendar for schools.

Charter funding regulations: Maybe the most notable item will be the introduction of new regulations that would rewrite some of the funding rules for charter schools.

Included is a measure to prevent local districts from pulling back funding to the charters in the case of inordinate surpluses. The change comes out of a legal challenge by Piscataway schools district in 2012, where it sought a reduction in the tuition it paid four charter schools where Piscataway students attended that had posted large surpluses. Piscataway won in appeals court and was remanded back to the state education commissioner, where the case is still pending.

Special services commissions: The board will also take up resolutions that would expand the geographic reach of the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission and the Passaic County Educational Services Commission. Such “enlargement of purposes” resolutions are rare, and board president Mark Biedron said it would be an opportunity to discuss the agencies’ growing place in the state’s special education programs.

Holiday calendar: The state board annually adopts the list of religious holidays in which students can receive an excused absence from school. The growing list now includes more than 141 holidays, with the latest changes including additions to the days marked by the Baha’i faith.

No PARCC: The board will not take up any measures or hear any presentations related to the ongoing and controversial PARCC testing.

Biedron, the board president, said he supports letting the testing run its course this spring, and then address any questions or concerns afterward. “I say we wait and see,” he said yesterday.

Greater parent voice: Much of the PARCC protests have come out of growing parent concerns over the new testing, and Biedron said he wants the board to provide greater opportunities for people to air their opinions.

One idea is regular gathering public testimony around the state at hearing held at more convenient hours. “How do we have a process where parents can voice their opinions outside just the monthly public testimony session at 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” he said.

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