New Jersey plans PPPs for schools

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has proposed a pilot programme to involve the private sector in the development of up to five 'transformation schools' in failing districts.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, is aiming to create a pilot programme of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the construction and operation of schools.

The pilot programme would be restricted to districts where schools are “persistently failing”, according to a statement from the Governor’s office.  The New Jersey Department of Education could authorise up to five such schools to be procured as PPPs.

The pilot programme could include an application to build a new school or to convert an existing school. Kevin Roberts, deputy press secretary for the Governor, said the prospective private partners would have to be involved in operating the school.

Under the proposal, the private developer would negotiate a five-year contract for either operation or operation and construction of a school, and the five-year contracts could be renewed, according to Roberts.

Roberts said the pilot programme could be expanded if the public-private partnerships were successful in lifting the performance of failing schools.

Christie dubbed the new programme “Transformation Schools”, according to the statement.  No legislation related to the proposal has yet been introduced.

Last year, Christie signed into law legislation enabling higher education institutions in New Jersey to undertake more PPPs, according to a statement on the Governor's website.

And New Jersey’s acting Commissioner of Education, Chris Cerf, has long been involved with private sector management of schools. Prior to his New Jersey appointment, he held positions including chief executive of Sangari Global Education, and partner in the Public Private Strategy Group. Cerf also spent eight years as president of Edison Schools, the largest private manager of public schools in the US, according to the New Jersey Department of Education website.

Christie has also been open to PPPs in sectors beyond education. Last year, Christie convened a five-member “New Jersey Privatisation Task Force” that concluded that the state should establish a centralised office to oversee possible privatisations of public assets and services.