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Agenda: Public Hearings on Charters and Private Schools

State Board hears from the public on new charter regulations and those for private special-ed schools

Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Time: 10 a.m.

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

New year meeting: The State Board of Education returns for 2017 with some hot topics on the agenda, and a public eager to speak out on them. One is new charter regulations that the Christie administration has pressed to loosen the reins on alternative schools. The other is private special-education schools, where the rules maybe getting a little tighter. Overall, 100 people have signed up to testify in the afternoon on both topics. Other subjects on the docket for the meeting include the new teacher evaluation rules, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and the annual report of the state-controlled Paterson schools.

Board membership in place for now: What won’t change for now is the makeup of the state board, in considerable flux with Gov. Chris Christie’s appointments of six new members last month. But none of those appointments are expected to be heard for Senate confirmation in the ccoming month. And still up in the air is what will happen to Mark Biedron, the board’s president, who Christie moved to replace last month and then inexplicably withdrew the new appointment. For now, Biedron stays where he is.

Charter school rules: The state board is on the second reading of the new charter regulations — or rather, deregulations — that have been proposed by the Christie administration, and it will get an earful today. A protest is planned in the morning, and the public hearing in the afternoon has already booked a second room. Among the most controversial measures is one that would allow charter schools to hire uncertified teachers and principals, and another to give them more freedom in using district buildings.

Private school rules: Special education is always a contentious topic, and this proposal is no exception. The Christie administration has proposed to tighten some of the rules on what private schools can charge as tuition, and the schools aren’t pleased. On the other side, district schools have long complained they can be subject to six-figure tuitions that are out of their control. In between are families whose children’s education is left uncertain. There is expected to be a big turnout from all of the above at the public hearing today.

Paterson’s turn: The Passaic County district is next up to give its annual report to the state board as a state-operated district. Like Camden and Newark in the past two months, the report is sure to be upbeat about the district’s progress. But looming over the report is Paterson’s ongoing struggle to see the state cede further controls after more than 25 years of oversight.

School evaluation changes: While most of the previous actions are incremental steps, the State Board is slated to give final adoption to some revised regulations on teacher evaluation. The regulations were first adopted after the 2012 teacher-tenure reforms, and the revisions are largely tweaks to those rules. The most notable one is a plan to reduce the minimum amount of time that a supervisor must spend in a classroom for teacher observations. The time would be reduced to three observations for non-tenured teachers of a minimum of 20 minutes, down from the current 40 minutes for at least one of the observations.

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