The New Jersey School Boards Association is calling on the state to wait until comprehensive guidelines are established before considering the approval of applications for virtual charter schools.

“Virtual or cyber-charter schools do exist in other states,” said Mike Vrancik, NJSBA director of governmental relations.  “However, other states have statutes specifically governing cyber-charters, as opposed to standard charter schools.  New Jersey charter school law, enacted in 1995, is silent on the matter of virtual charter schools.”

“Applying the 1995 law to the establishment of cyber-charters could have a negative impact on the host district’s finances and the programs it is able to provide to students enrolled in its traditional schools,” he said.   “Provisions of the 1995 law governing charter school funding and enrollment provisions are based on a certain number of students from a specific community or region attending a brick-and-mortar school.  The enrollment zones and costs of a cyber-charter are completely different from traditional charter schools and are not addressed in the current charter school law.”

Vrancik provided the State Board of Education with an NJSBA study, conducted in May 2012 by a committee of local school board members and charter school trustees.  It recommended applying the same ethics and accountability standards to charter schools and traditional public school districts, adjusting the school funding formula and the charter application process so that the charter school’s financial impact on the community is clear and  giving priority to charter school applications in districts with persistently under-performing schools.

“In New Jersey, only the state through the Department of Education, may authorize a charter school,” said Vrancik.  “That’s different than the process in effect in most states.”