New Jersey Embraces School Choice (Sort Of)

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The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program (IPSCP), which allows districts to open seats to children residing within the same county but outside of district boundaries, received a walloping 72 applications (according to DOE info) since the program was reauthorized by the State Legislature earlier this year. School districts are hungry for cash and the home district pays the per-pupil tab, plus transportation within a twenty-mile radius. Think of it as traditional public schools acting like charter schools: parental choice, public funding, and (in many cases) unwelcome competition.

Obviously the revenue is a key attraction to a district with some extra seats and a taut spreadsheet. Other districts want to avoid irrelevance. Any Hunterdon County residents want to send their kids to Stockton Public Schools, with one school building and a total school population of 34 children? According to the DOE, in 2009 there were two children in first grade and three students in fifth grade, although sixth grade is like the Garden State Parkway, teeming with ten kids.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown: 17 out of 21 of our counties had applicants, which is great. NIMBY-ers are Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Middlesex County. Of the 72 districts, a disproportionate number come from lower District Factor Groups (DFG), which labels a town’s socio-economic profile on a scale from A (lowest) to J (highest). Among the applicants for IPSCP, 5 are A, 1 is an AB, 16 are B, 10 are CD, and 15 are DE. On the cushier end of the spectrum, 10 districts are labeled FG, 8 are GH, 1 is HI, and 6 are I.

Of the highest socio-economic stratum offering seats to county schoolchildren, one is in Burlington: Medford Lakes, which has two schools serving grades pre-K – 8. Two are in Hunterdon County, Clinton and Franklin Township, also K-8 districts, as is Marlboro Township in Monmouth. Robbinsville in Mercer is offering 10 spots in its high school. While Mercer and Warren counties only have one volunteer, Camden County is enormously open-minded, with eleven interdistrict choice applicants. Now can we close down Camden High?

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1 Comment

  • Denisa Cretu, June 18, 2016 @ 7:20 am Reply

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