What is a Charter School?

A charter school is a public school operated under a charter granted by the Commissioner of Education, that is independent of the district board of education and that is managed by a board of trustees. Charter school legislation was passed to give choice for all parents for their children's education. The intent of this legislation is to:

  • Improve student learning and achievement;
  • Increase the availability of choice to parents and students when selecting a learning environment;
  • Encourage the use of different and innovative learning methods;
  • Establish a new system of accountability for schools;
  • Make the school the unit for educational improvement;
  • Establish new professional opportunities for teachers

Founders of a charter school may be teaching staff members, parents with children attending schools of the district or a combination of both, as well as institutions of higher education or a private entity located within the state in conjunction with teaching staff members and parents.
Charter schools may not charge tuition.

A private or parochial school may not convert to a charter school.

A charter school is open to all students on a space-available basis with preference being given to students from the district of residence or region of residence of the charter school.
All classroom teachers and professional support staff must hold appropriate New Jersey certification.

Application and Approval Process

The charter school application is revised each year and published in December. The NJDOE provides a comprehensive training session, in January, for all interested founders. This training session provides background information on charter school law and code as well as training on how to write potentially approvable application. The session covers both the program and fiscal requirements of a charter school application.

Charter school applications are due to the NJDOE on March 31 each year. The Commissioner renders a final decision of approval or denial of applications on September 30. The charter school administrative code was amended to change the application approval date from January 15 to September 30, thus allowing a charter school a full planning year in order to open. In the past, a charter school was approved or denied on January 15 each year. This meant that a group of founders received application approval in January and were able to open a charter school in September. After several failed openings due to poor planning, the department amended the administrative code to allow for a full year of planning.

The approval process is rigorous in order to effectively evaluate potential applicants' capacity to open and operate a public charter school. This allows department personnel to thorougly evaluate critical areas such as: curriculum and instruction, teacher certification, and fiscal viability.