The New Jersey Department of Education reports that 72 school districts around the state have applied to join the Interdistrict School Choice program and open their doors to students from other communities. The deadline to submit an application was Oct. 29. The state education department will review the applications, and approvals are expected in January.
The new law expanding the program and making it permanent was signed by the governor on Sept. 9 of this year. Last year, there were only 10 districts participating in the school choice program.
Up to 10 percent of a district’s students can attend any other school in an approved participating district. Home districts are required to provide and pay for students’ transportation to their new schools up to 20 miles away.
Under the new law, the sending district would receive state transportation aid to cover busing of students to the choice district. As with the previous inter-district choice program, a student seeking to attend school in a choice district would be required to have attended school in the “sending” public school district for at least one year.
More Southern Applicants The 72 districts applying come from 17 of the state’s 21 counties. More local districts in the southern part of the state have submitted applications than in the central and northern regions.
Eleven districts applied from Camden County, while Cape May and Ocean counties each had six districts, and Burlington and Salem counties had five districts offer to accept students from outside their borders. In the central and northern regions, Hunterdon and Sussex counties had the most applicants, with 11 and five districts, respectively.
Four counties – Essex, Hudson, Middlesex and Passaic – had no applicants.
The full listing of counties that have applied is posted online.
New Jersey first established the Interdistrict School Choice program in 1999 on a pilot basis in a limited number of counties. It later expanded to all 21 counties, but capped the number of choice districts to one per county. The new law places no limit on the total number of choice districts.
NJSBA supported the expanded school choice program.