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Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey and Albert Coutinho to help create strong performing charter schools in failing school districts was officially signed into law on Thursday.

“Charter schools have a role to play as we undertake significant education reform measures,” said Jasey. “The intention was never to replace regular public schools but rather to provide schools where new approaches and strategies could be tested and then, where successful, shared with their counterparts.”

The new law (A-2806) will permit high-performing non-public schools in failing school districts to convert to charter schools upon approval of an expedited application by the state. The application must certify that upon conversion to charter school status the school will prohibit religious instruction, events and activities that promote religious views, and the display of religious symbols. The name of the proposed charter school cannot include any religious reference.

Under the law, the Commissioner of Education is directed to establish an expedited process for the review of such applications.

“Charter schools, if done correctly, can be a vital part in improving our public education system and ensuring quality education for our children,” Coutinho said. “By removing some of the obstacles to creating charter schools, we’ll be opening the door to a better future for many children while ensuring the proper oversight is in place for a quality education.”

The bill, which passed the Assembly by a vote of 59-14-4 in June and the Senate by a vote of 25-13 in September, is part of a larger charter school reform package passed by the Assembly earlier this year.