New Jersey Governor Signed into Law Act Permitting Private Companies to Construct and Operate Public Schools in Newark, Trenton and Camden

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On January 12, 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law the Urban Hope Act (“Act”), S3173/A4426, which allows private companies to construct, operate and manage up to twelve public schools in three under-performing public school districts in the State: the Newark School District, the Trenton School District and the Camden School District. These “failing districts,” as such are defined in the Act as those in which a below average percentage of students scored at least in the partially proficient range on State assessments administered in the 2009-2010 school year, have been unable to convert, year after year, “increased State aid and other resources into improved student achievement, higher graduation rates, or greater student readiness for postsecondary education and gainful employment.” Recognizing that although New Jersey’s per pupil public school expenditures are among the highest in the nation, many of the State students are nonetheless failing to achieve the core curriculum content standards, the New Jersey Legislature passed, and the Governor approved, the Act to “provide local boards of education, partners, students, and teachers with more and better options for addressing their failing schools.”

The Act offers one such option by allowing the identified school districts, on a limited pilot program basis, to partner with one or more nonprofit entities to create “renaissance schools.” Under the Act, a “renaissance school project” (“RSP”) means “a newly-constructed school, or group of schools in a common campus setting, that provides an educational program for students enrolled in grades K through 12 or in a grade range less than K through 12, that is agreed to by the school district, and is operated and managed by a nonprofit entity in a renaissance school district.” A “renaissance school district” (“RSD”) is “a failing district in which [RSPs] shall be established.” Private or parochial schools are not eligible for RSP status under the Act.

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