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Ruiz & Pou Bill to Better Facilitate School Districts Under State Control Regaining Local Control Advances

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Theresa Ruiz and Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Nellie Pou that would provide a mechanism for school districts to move from State intervention back to local control passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday.

“For 22 years, parents in Newark had no control over what was happening in their schools,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This bill sets up a well-defined process for evaluating districts based on non-subjective data. This is important for everyone who cares about better public education. We need to know exactly why a district is under state control and where they need to improve to move back to local control.”

“The timing of this bill is significant,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Just weeks ago, the state announced it was recommending an end to state control of Paterson schools. It took 27 years for this to happen. It is essential that the state establishes criteria for district evaluation that sets the bar for local independence. We all want better schools and know the state has a role to play in making that happen. But we also want local control of our districts.”

The bill, S-691, would prohibit the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education from using any other factor but the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJ QSAC) in determining to withdraw from intervention in an area of school district effectiveness.

NJ QSAC evaluates school districts based upon:

  • Instruction and program
  • Personnel
  • Fiscal management
  • Operations
  • Governance

Under this bill, a district under partial or full State intervention that satisfies 80 percent or more of the quality performance indicators in a particular area would be removed from State control in that area. NJ QSAC was passed in 2015 with the aim of ensuring that all New Jersey schools were operating at a high level of performance. It was intended to simplify the monitoring of school district progress by using one set of standards.

Every three years, each district provides a report to the Department of Education in which it self-assesses its progress in satisfying the quality performance indicators

Under NJ QSAC a district will be designated as one of the following: a high performing district; a district satisfying 50 percent to 79 percent of the quality performance indicators; a district under partial State intervention; or a district under full State intervention.

Under current law, a school district under full State control reports annually on its progress in complying with the quality performance indicators. Based on this report, but not sooner than three years after the establishment of the district under full State intervention, the Commissioner may recommend that the district be placed under partial State control or designated as a high-performing or moderate-performing district. If the district successfully implements the improvement plan, the Commissioner would recognize the district as a high-performing district and the State would withdraw from intervention.

If the Commissioner cannot recommend that the district under full State intervention be placed under partial State intervention within three years, then the Commissioner would provide a comprehensive report to the State board and to the Governor and the Legislature, including a detailed analysis of the causes for the failure of the district to comply with the quality performance indicators and an assessment of the amount of time necessary for the continuation of full State intervention.

Based on that report, the State board would determine whether to keep the district under full State intervention or move the district to partial State intervention.

This bill would create an objective standard for withdrawing State control by relying upon the district’s NJ QSAC score.

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 4-0-1 and moves to the full Senate for consideration.