The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program was created by the New Jersey Department of Education in 1999. On September 1, 1999, the State Board of Education passed regulations establishing the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. In December 1999, the State Legislature enacted the Interdistrict Public School Choice Act of 1999, as a five-year pilot with substantial limitations. The act was signed into law by the Governor in January 2000.
The Interdistrict Public School Choice Act of 1999: limited the number of choice districts to one per county. limited student admission to the program to grades 1 through 10. allowed districts of residence to pass a resolution limiting the participation of their students to 2% per grade per year or 7% of their total enrollment.
The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program Act of 1999, NJSA 18A:36B-1 et seq. provides: a form of categorical aid called “school choice aid” for each choice student who enrolls in the choice district. all categorical aid associated with any choice student. Current Funding
per pupil amount of school choice aid is calculated on the most recent biennial report. choice districts in district factor group A or B receive school choice aid at a rate equal to the weighted per pupil maximum T&E amount. all other choice districts receive school choice aid at a rate equal to the weighted per pupil T&E amount.
School choice aid is outside the cap and unrestricted. School LevelA & B DistrictsAll Other Districts Elementary (1-5)$8,309$7,913 Middle School (6-8)$8,605$8,195 High School (9-12)$9,221$8,872
75% of that aide for its students enrolled in a choice district in the first year that it has students enrolled in a choice districts. 50% per student in the second year. 25% in the third year and no impact aid thereafter. The code and the statue provide for “impact aid” for the districts of residence of choice students. A district of residence that receives core curriculum content standards (CCCS) aid, receives:
In the first year of the program, 2000-2001, 96 students enrolled in 10 choice districts. In the 2005-2006 school year, 1006 students were enrolled in choice districts. Fifty percent of the students were female and 50% were male. Program Status
272 students were in enrolled in grades 1-5. 156 students were enrolled in grades 6-8. 578 students were enrolled in grades 9-12.
13% of the students enrolled were Asian 12% were Black 59% were Caucasian 12% were Hispanic 3% were not identified by race/ethnicity 1% were Other
In the 2005-2006 school year, school choice students came from 118 different districts of residence. The current choice districts are: Atlantic County: Folsom Bergen County: Englewood Burlington County: Washington Township Camden County: Brooklawn Cape May County: Lower Township
Cumberland County: Cumberland Regional Hudson County: Hoboken Hunterdon County: Bloomsbury Monmouth County: Upper Freehold Morris County: Mine Hill Passaic County: Manchester Regional Salem County: Salem City Union County: Kenilworth Warren County: Belvidere
Choice districts have been able to: Lower class sizes Establish innovative programs Expand classes in areas such as art and music Acquire sophisticated technology Increase instructional hours or days Enrich the diversity of the school community
The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program has enabled participating districts in many ways: Kenilworth, Lower Township and Englewood increased diversity in their districts. Folsom lowered its tax rate. Washington Township saved a faculty position. Mine Hill hired a full-time science teacher. Upper Freehold added a middle school teacher
In 2007, the Institute on Education Law and Policy of Rutgers-Newark School of Law issued a report. The Rutgers report strongly supports the recommendations made in the department's Interdistrict Public School Choice Program Annual Report for the 2005-2006 school year.
Recommendations Reauthorize the legislation. Expand the program to allow participation of all school districts approved by the department. Permit the participation of kindergarten students. Permit the admission of 11th and 12th grade students.
Provide students attending a K-6 or K-8 choice district the option to move with their classmates to the receiving high school district for resident students of the choice district. Set school choice aid at the per pupil level of the student's district of residence or the choice district, whichever is higher. Ensure that all categoricals associated with a student follow the student to the choice district. Make the district of residence responsible for transportation.
Provide declining amounts of "impact aid" to all districts of residence for the first three years. Define district of residence as the district in which the student was scheduled to be enrolled for the school year. Raise the standard percentages which a district of residence can adopt to restrict participation of its residence students. Establish incentives for districts accepting choice program students.
Develop procedures to effectively utilize the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program to address desegregation issues throughout the state. The department submitted an application to the United States Department of Education Voluntary School Choice Program. If successful, this federal grant will help to fund such an initiative.
A drawing by a first grade choice program student at Folsom, given to school choice staff on our first visit to the district’s program. This program makes a difference in children’s lives.