OP-ED: YOUR TURN: How to increase diversity in New Jersey schools
Last May, a lawsuit was filed challenging equity issues in the school districts in the state’s K-12 education system. (click here to read the entire op-ed by our Chairman)
REPORT OF THE EDUCATION, ACCESS, AND OPPORTUNITY TRANSITION ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Report as submitted to Governor Murphy (click here to view the entire report)
OP-ED: LET STATE’S MONEY ‘FOLLOW THE CHILD’ RATHER THAN PAD DISTRICT BUDGETS
I have been involved with the state’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program since its inception in 1999, as the superintendent of Folsom School in Atlantic County. (click here to read more)
Demand, state aid limit school choice program
There’s a lot less choice in New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice program this year. (click here to read more)
Commentary: Gov Christie gives the bird to a school choice program almost everyone loves
"It's a great program," says New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. It "meets an important need, and it does so utilizing New Jersey's excellent public schools," says New Jersey Education Association... (click here to read more)
N.J. limits its school choice program
In an effort to cut down on rising costs, the state is capping a program that allows students to attend schools outside their own district at no extra cost, limiting some Bergen and Passaic schools to just a handful of open spots for the coming school year. (click here to read more)
Education issues addressed by the Legislature
From NJ Spotlight: Committees address array of education matters ranging from bolstering special-education services to addressing chronic absenteeism
A busy day at the State House yesterday brought a variety of education matters to the fore -- from special education to school regionalization to one bill that would require every elementary school to provide daily recess. (click here to read more)
Enrollment Opens for 2015-2016 School Year
New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program enables approved choice districts to enroll non-resident students without cost to their parents. The program increases educational opportunities for students and their families by providing them the power to select a school program that best serves their child’s individual needs.
District participation in the program is optional. Once approved, the choice district designates the available seats in specific grades and programs that are open to choice students. Where choice options are available, any student who resides in New Jersey is eligible to apply.
There are currently 136 approved Choice Districts
All New Jersey students are eligible to become choice students and cannot be selected on the basis of academic aptitude, athletic ability, behavior record, English language proficiency, or any basis prohibited by law. A choice district that offers a special program with a particular focus may evaluate prospective students on their interest in the program and must use the same enrollment criteria used for the resident students. Students interested in enrolling in a choice district must follow the student application process.
For complete information, go to:
Manchester Regional student speaks about benefits of school choice program
BY LESLIE BRODY
Glisel Aponte says she took her son out of a Paterson school in sixth grade after he got a perfect score on the annual state math test and nobody bothered to congratulate him.
She searched hard for options that would give him more academic encouragement. Since then her son, Isaiah Nieves, has gone to a charter school and a private school on scholarship. Now 15, he wakes up at 5:45 a.m. to get on a bus to Manchester Regional High School as part of a growing inter-district choice program.
The 11th-grader said he’s thrilled to have a broad array of activities there, new classmates and exposure to a world beyond his city. “I wanted to see suburban life,” he said Wednesday. “I’d always been very curious about it. I like the calm pace.”
Nieves, the son of a letter carrier, spoke at a school choice “summit” in Newark arranged by advocates pushing to expand all kinds of options, from charter schools and vouchers to magnets and home schooling. While some of these alternatives have fierce critics, the interdistrict choice program has been widely popular. Supporters complain that the state has capped its growth to save money.
New Jersey is spending $49 million on aid to schools that sign up to receive 4,682 students from outside districts, up from 964 in 2010. State officials have said they expect to limit the program to a 5 percent increase next year because of budget constraints.
Manchester Regional in Haledon has about 100 teenagers in the interdistrict choice program, mostly from Paterson. Bergenfield, Bogota, Englewood and Pompton Lakes High School also accept choice students when space allows. Their families do not have to pay, and home districts keep a portion of the tax levy collected for students who leave. Supporters say the program adds diversity to schools while helping some cope with dwindling enrollment.
Nieves’ mother, who went to John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, said she didn’t want her gifted son to attend a place that had fights and drugs. “He’s not streetwise, he’s bookwise,” she said.
Paterson schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo said that district schools have bolstered security in recent years, and have seen improvements in test scores and graduation rates. “We believe more children are electing to stay in Patersonschools because of the progress we’ve made,” she said.
The daylong summit, with panels of legislators and advocates, kicked off a tour of similar events in cities across the country promoting “national school choice week.”
Advocates noted that in last week’s State of the State speech, Governor Christie did not mention the long-stalled Opportunity Scholarship Act, a bill he pushed hard for in the past that would give companies tax credits for paying private tuitions for children in failing districts. Opponents argued vouchers siphon resources from public schools and violate the separation of church and state when used in parochial settings.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, once a crusader for vouchers, said the bill was dead. “It’s toast. Stick a fork in it. Move on,” he said. Lesniak said he hoped to focus instead on targeting waste in school spending so those dollars can be used for after-school programs, full-day kindergarten and other initiatives that help low-income children succeed.
Thomas Kean Jr., R-Union, state Senate Minority leader, said he still had hopes for the voucher bill. “I believe if we could post it for a vote it will pass with bipartisan support,” he said.
Advocates also expressed frustration with the slow growth of charter schools, now numbering 87 in New Jersey. Opponents contend that charter schools drain talented students and resources from traditional public schools.
Nieves was enthusiastic about giving students more choices. “We’re no longer stuck in the same towns, or with the same people we grew up with, but given the opportunity to try new things and really find ourselves,” he said.
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