>N.J. bill allowing students to attend out-of-district schools advances
By The Associated Press
April 25, 2010, 10:56AM
TRENTON — Plans to create a permanent public school choice program in New Jersey continue to advance in the state legislature.
The measure would allow parents to move their children to schools across district lines. It would replace a pilot program that expired in 2005, though many participating districts continue to informally honor its arrangements.
The Assembly passed the measure late last month 75-0 and sent it to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Education Committee. That panel, though, has not yet scheduled a hearing on the proposal.
However, the proposal is expected to be discussed Monday when state education officials appear before the Assembly’s budget committee to discuss their 2011 fiscal year spending plan.
If the measure becomes law, schools seeking to participate in the program would apply to the state education commissioner, detailing services available to their students. The applications also would include an accounting of fiscal issues that schools could face by taking part in the program.
Students who want to transfer would have to apply to their district of choice, which would decide whether to accept students based in part on their interests in the school’s offerings. Schools also would be allowed to hold lotteries if the number of applications outpace the number of available seats.
Students’ home districts would have to provide or pay for transportation for elementary school pupils who live more than two miles from the receiving district, and for secondary school students who live more than 2-1/2 miles from their new school. Sending districts would not have to pay these costs if the new school is more than 20 miles from the student’s home.
“Public school choice is an important step to ensuring each child has the ability to attend a school that is best suited to their individual needs and talents,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-South Orange. “More importantly, public school choice programs can improve educational outcomes for students without seeing taxpayer money funneled out of New Jersey’s strong public school system.”
Jasey, a former member of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education, sponsored the measure in the Assembly with fellow Democrats Joan Voss, a retired educator from Fort Lee, and Paul Moriarty of Turnersville. The primary sponsors in the Senate are Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence, and Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr.