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Turner Bill Would Permit Interdistrict School Choice

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner, which would allow for interdistrict public school choice, was unanimously approved today by the Senate Education Committee.

“This bill would make permanent an exceptional program which gives parents a choice of where to send their children to school, regardless of income level or socioeconomic status,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer, who is a member of the Senate Education Panel. “It is important that students attend schools that are best suited for their educational needs and interests, and through this legislation, we would give them more options, while ensuring that educational funding for public schools kept where it belongs.”

Senator Turner’s bill, S-1073, would make permanent the interdistrict public school choice program, which was established in 2000 and expired in 2005. The bill would allow for the establishment of choice districts, which would be permitted to enroll out of district students on a space available basis. Schools interested in becoming a choice district would apply with the state Department of Education.

Under the program, students would apply to attend their district of choice, which would use criteria outlined in the bill’s provisions to accept or deny students. Students would be required to be enrolled in grades preschool through twelve, and would have had to attend the sending school district for at least one year prior. Students enrolling in preschool or kindergarten would be able to waive the one-year requirement if an older sibling already attends the choice district. Choice district admission preference would be given to siblings of students who are already enrolled. Schools with limited space would be permitted to hold a lottery to help in the selection process. Students accepted into a choice district would be permitted to remain enrolled in the school until graduation.

Sending school districts would be responsible to provide transportation for elementary school students who live more than two miles from their choice district, and for high school students who live more than two and a half miles away.

“This bill would also help to strengthen New Jersey’s chances of receiving federal funding through the ‘Race to the Top’ program, which encourages states to find ways to increase standards to help students succeed in school, and also help to prepare them for a global economy. In a time when state education dollars seem to be on the chopping block, programs like this would really help to ensure that districts receive their fair share of funding — every little bit helps,” said Senator Turner.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration. #

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