Policy and FAQs

INTERDISTRICT PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE POLICY
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Topics (click on the topic below to go directly to related Q&A):

District application process

Choice funding

Conversion and funding for students who move out of a choice district

Student application process

District application process

Adding specialized choice programs with admission criteria

Q: Can a district have a special program that is open to choice students? Can admission criteria be used to evaluate applicants to the special program?

A: Yes, a district may have a special program that is open to choice students. If a choice district limits admissions to a special choice program with a particular area of concentration, it may evaluate applicants on their interest in the program and it must apply the same admission criteria for all students admitted to the program, whether they are choice or resident students. When developing admissions criteria for a special program, school districts must ensure that the identification methodology used is developmentally appropriate, non-discriminatory and directly related to the programs and services offered. The NJDOE reviews and approves all Choice program admissions criteria that are submitted in the district's original application to the Choice program. If a district wants to change any admissions criteria, it must submit the Choice Program Amendment Application (Word | PDF) due April 30 in the school year preceding the one in which the revised choice program will be implemented.

Expanding or changing approved choice programs

Q: If an approved choice district adds new grades, a new program, or changes their admissions/eligibility criteria, must it submit another application to participate in the choice program?

A: Changes other than number of seats in the approved grades require that the district submit the Choice Program Amendment Application (Word | PDF). The application is due by April 30 in the year prior to the school year in which the revised choice program will be implemented, and the commissioner will notify choice districts of the approval or disapproval of its application no later than July 30.

Funding Choice Districts

Q: How are choice students funded?

A: The State pays the choice district the local portion of its adequacy budget (called the "local fair share") in the form of "choice aid," on a per pupil basis, for each choice student. (The resident districts keep the local tax levy collected for students who "choice out," so this funding stays in the resident district.) In year 2 and beyond, any State aid attributable to choice students (also call equalization aid) will also be paid to the choice district. Transportation is provided by the resident/sending district. To find more information about choice funding, visit the resources area of the website.

Tuition and choice programs

Q: Can a choice district also maintain a tuition program?

A: State statute and regulation governing the existence of both a tuition and choice program in the district are referenced below. If a district has a question about how the choice statute and implementing regulation apply to its specific situation, it is advised to consult the district's attorney to determine whether it can maintain both programs in the district.

The statute reference http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/law.htm states the following:
"A choice district shall not be eligible to enroll students on a tuition basis pursuant to N.J.S.18A:38-3 while participating in the interdistrict public school choice program. Any student enrolled on a tuition basis prior to the establishment of the choice program shall be entitled to remain enrolled in the choice district as a choice student."

The code reference http://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap12.pdf states the following:

"District boards of education may not maintain at the same time both a tuition program pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:38-3 and a choice program in the grade levels that the school district has made available to choice students."

Therefore, grades that choice students will attend in future years as they advance in the school/district should be considered "grade levels that the school district has made available to choice students" and should not be included in a tuition program.

Note: Parent-paid tuition programs are not to be confused with district-paid tuition programs, which can be maintained at the same time as a choice program.

Process for converting a tuition student to a choice student

Q: Does a tuition student automatically convert to a choice student? What is the process?

A: The tuition student does not need to file an application with the choice district. However, the choice district must include the student in their enrollment data submission to the NJDOE in January, and must send a transportation request to the resident district in March. Tuition student should be registered with his/her resident district.

Out of state tuition students

Q: Can out of state students attend a choice district?

A: Regulation 6A:12-2.2(c) states that students residing out of state may not participate in the choice program.  And choice districts are not allowed to accept parent-paid tuition students.

Q: Can an out of state teacher's child attend a choice district, either as a tuition or a choice student?

A: 6A:12-2.2(c) states that students residing out of state may not participate in the choice program.   However, the district has the discretion to admit a nonresident or out-of-state student as a non-choice, non-tuition, nonresident student.  Since choice districts cannot enroll students on a tuition basis, the district may develop a policy that allows nonresident children of teachers the right to attend school without tuition, but this would be outside the choice statute.

District's commitment to participate in the choice program

Q: Can a district that has submitted an application as a choice district withdraw their application?

A: The district may withdraw its application up until July 30. By statute, the Commissioner has until July 30 to notify a choice district of the approval or disapproval of its application. After July 30, the NJDOE will publicize the districts' participation in the program.

District's parent information center

Q: What must a district provide through the parent information center?

A: All choice districts must establish and maintain a parent information center that disseminates information about the choice program and helps parents in submitting student applications for enrollment. The district must also post information on its choice program on the district's website, including their application, the timeline and application policies.

Choice funding

Receiving choice funding for late applicants

Q: If a choice district loses a choice student after the enrollment data has been sent to the NJDOE (after Jan. 24, 2014), can the choice district fill that seat with another choice student and receive choice funding for that student?

A: If a funded choice seat becomes available after the enrollment data has been submitted to the NJDOE because a student has withdrawn his/her Intent to Enroll or does not end up enrolling in SY2015, the district may pull students off its waitlist or accept new applicants, provided the total number of choice seats does not exceed the approved enrollment maximum. However, the district will only be funded up to the enrollment number provided to the NJDOE as of the 1/24/14 choice data submission.

The choice district must use the waitlist and select the replacement students according to the policy and regulations governing the development and use of the waitlist. There is no deadline for districts to replace choice students who have withdrawn; as long as the seat is funded and available, districts can fill it with another choice student at any time.

The choice district must send the transportation requests for any newly enrolled students to the resident district as soon as the students enroll in the choice district. If there are changes to the transportation needs of accepted students, the choice district must send any new/revised transportation requests to the resident district immediately so the district can seek bids. If a resident district receives a transportation request after the start of the school year, the district is not expected to seek bids and may offer aid in lieu of transportation to the student. Please find more complete information about choice transportation policy here.

Adding unfunded students

Q: Can a choice district add unfunded students and then convert them to choice students in the next application cycle?

A: Unfortunately, no. Every choice district has been given a DOE-approved maximum number of choice seats for which it will be funded in FY2014-15. If a district wants to enroll more non-resident students and exceed their choice enrollment maximum, then they may enroll students outside the choice program. Choice rules DO NOT apply to these students: they would not receive any state funding and would not be treated like choice students. Districts that take students through this option should be clear with families about what entitlements/rights these students have or don't have. Districts may enroll such students as non-choice, non-resident, non-tuition students, but they will NOT be converted to choice students in subsequent years. To become choice students, they would need to apply to the choice district in another year and if they have a choice sibling in the district, they would get enrollment preference (as long as the district policy gives preference to siblings).

In the ASSA, these students should be counted as "Onroll" and "Received->Misc.-> Other-Tuition Free". These students should not be counted as "Onroll-Choice" students. In NJSMART these students should be coded as "resident" in their home district and "received/attending" in the choice district utilizing TUITIONCODE = 05 "Tuition Free."

Student application process

Notice of Intent to Participate Form

Q: What is the purpose of the Notice of Intent to Participate form and who should fill it out?

A: By law, a resident district must be informed if a student intends to participate in the choice program. Students who are registered with their resident district must complete the Notice of Intent to Participate form and submit it to their resident district by December 2. The district should provide a signed receipt that acknowledges receipt of the form.

Confirmation of Student Enrollment Form

Q: What is the purpose of the Confirmation of Student Enrollment form and who should fill it out?

A: The primary purpose of the Confirmation of Student Enrollment form is to help the choice district designate their applicants as either tier 1 or 2. The form should be sent by the choice district to the applicants' current resident district so it can indicate whether the students are or are not currently enrolled in their district of residence. The resident district must verify enrollments for all the students on the list by 12/13/13.

Choice and Student Athletes

Q: Can a choice district encourage student athletes to apply to their program?

A: No, a choice district cannot recruit or encourage student enrollment based on athletic ability. Similarly, students cannot participate in a choice program for athletic reasons. The NJSIAA 30-day transfer rule for varsity athletes will apply to choice students as well as to other students attending NJSIAA-member districts, beginning in September. Visit http://njsiaa.org/ to find their Constitution, Rules and Regulations.

Q: What are the policies for student varsity athletes who transfer from their resident school to a choice school?

A: The transfer policy of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) (http://www.njsiaa.org/ and click on "Constitution") is beneficial in discouraging the enrollment of students in the choice program for athletic advantage, which goes against the intent of the Interdistrict Choice Program. The NJSIAA has a student transfer policy that applies to students who transfer from one school to another for reasons other than a change of address. The chart below the NJSIAA transfer policy explains how it is applied to choice students.
NJSIAA Transfer Policy:

  1. A student-athlete transferring from one secondary school to another, without a bona fide change of residence by that student's parent or guardian, shall be ineligible to participate for a period of thirty (30) calendar days or one half of the maximum number of games allowed in the sport by NJSIAA rules (the ineligibility period) from the beginning of the regular schedule, whichever is less, in any sport in which the student has previously participated at the varsity level.
  2. To prevent possible recruitment or transfer for athletic advantage, a Transfer Form must be executed by the two involved schools and filed with the NJSIAA before any interscholastic participation.
  3. A student who transfers during the second half of a sports season, regardless of whether the transfer was the result of a bona fide change of residence, shall be ineligible to participate in any post-season championship competition at the new school. The Executive Director of the NJSIAA will annually publish the dates that will define the halfway point of each sports season.
  4. Any student who is subject to the 30-day period of ineligibility may nevertheless participate in interscholastic scrimmages at the discretion of the school.
Question NJSIAA Application of Transfer Rule
  1. How do we handle 8th graders who enroll in a Choice school straight out of 8th grade?
Considered initial enrollment; not a transfer
  1. What do we do with that same 8th grader who during the 2013-2014 school year (after September 1, 2013) decides to transfer out of Choice school and goes to any other NJSIAA member school, resident school or otherwise?
This is a transfer and student is subject to 30 day sit rule, except if a student transfers back to his resident district
  1. How do we handle a student (non-8th grader) that has been accepted into a Choice school program prior to 9/11/13?
The student is "grandfathered in" under the previous determination and no 30 day sit will apply
  1. How do we handle a "grandfathered student" who during the 2013-2014 school year wishes to transfer to resident school or any other NJSIAA member school?
If the transfer is after the effective date of the new policy (Sept. 1, 2013), then student is not grandfathered, except if a student transfers back to his resident district
  1. How do we handle students in the class of 2014, 2015, and 2016 who transfer to a NJSIAA member Choice school after September 1, 2013?
Transfer rule would be applicable
  1. Does grandfathering only apply to 2013-14 school year?
Yes, after 2013-14 school year, any transfer to resident school or any other NJSIAA member school will be subject to the30 day sit rule

Student eligibility criteria for enrollment in choice districts

Q: Can a choice program use criteria for enrollment that is based on student performance, including test scores or grade point?

A: A choice program cannot discriminate in admission policies on the basis of intellectual aptitude. The law states the following: A choice district may evaluate a prospective student on the student's interest in the program offered by a designated school. The district shall not discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of athletic ability, intellectual aptitude, English language proficiency, status as a handicapped person, or any basis prohibited by State or federal law. (See 18A:36B-20 Interdistrict School Choice Law: http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/law.htm.)
However, if a choice district limits admissions to a special choice program with a particular area of concentration, it may evaluate prospective students on their interest in the program and it must apply the same admission criteria for all students admitted to the program, whether they are choice or resident students. When developing admissions criteria for a special program, school districts must ensure that the identification methodology used is developmentally appropriate, non-discriminatory and directly related to the programs and services offered. The NJDOE reviews and approves all Choice program admissions criteria that are submitted in the district's original application to the Choice program. If a district wants to change any admissions criteria, it must submit the Choice Program Amendment Application (Word | PDF) due April 30 in the school year preceding the one in which the revised choice program will be implemented.

Q: Can a choice district use discipline records as enrollment criteria?

A: No, a choice district cannot use discipline records as enrollment criteria.

Student applicants with IEPs

Q: Under what circumstances can a choice district reject an applicant with an IEP?

A: A choice district can reject an applicant who has been classified as eligible for special education services if that student's individualized education program could not be implemented in the district, or if the enrollment of that student would require the district to fundamentally alter the nature of its educational program, or would create an undue financial or administrative burden on the district.
A student whose application is rejected by a choice district must be provided with a reason for the rejection in the letter of notice. The appeal of a rejection notice may be made to the commissioner, through the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes. To learn more about this appeals process, see the Bureau's FAQs.

If the student is deemed eligible for special education services after acceptance but prior to the start of the first school year in the choice district and the district cannot implement the IEP, acceptance into the choice program can be revoked.

Once the applicant has enrolled in the choice district, the district is required to keep the student and ensure that the student's needs for special education services are met—just the same as it would for a resident student: once the student has enrolled, and an IEP is developed that cannot be implemented by the choice district, the district must follow the normal IEP process for out-of-district placement (see N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1, et seq.: 6A:14-2.7 for due process hearings, 6A:14-3.7 for IEP process and 6A:14-4.3 for program options).

Choice students (already attending the choice district) with IEPs

Once a choice student has enrolled in the choice district, the district is required to keep the student and ensure that the student's needs for special education services are met—just the same as it would for a resident student. Any costs to implement the IEP are to be borne by the choice district, with one exception:  if an IEP is developed that cannot be implemented by the choice district and an out-of-district placement is designated, the choice district is only financially responsible for any state aid received for the student and the sending district is responsible for the balance. [See 6A:12-9.1 General provisions (b): The sending district shall maintain fiscal responsibility for any choice student enrolled in or determined to require a private day or residential school, except that the choice district will be required to contribute any State aid received for such a student and the sending district will be responsible for the balance.] For more on out-of-district placements, see Choice students needing out-of-district placement.

Choice students needing out-of-district or private placement

Q: What is the process that the choice district must go through to place a choice student out-of-district?

A: For private placements, the district would need to follow the normal IEP process and procedures for due process purposes (see N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1, et seq.: 6A:14-2.7 for due process hearings, 6A:14-3.7 for IEP process and 6A:14-4.3 for program options)

The choice district is responsible for providing the student with special education services once they are enrolled, including evaluations, classification, placement etc. This responsibility includes tuition billing and getting reimbursement for the balance of the tuition costs from the resident district in the case of an out of district or private placement. The choice district is only financially responsible for any state aid received for the student and the sending district is responsible for the balance. See 6A:12-9.1 General provisions (b): The sending district shall maintain fiscal responsibility for any choice student enrolled in or determined to require a private day or residential school, except that the choice district will be required to contribute any State aid received for such a student and the sending district will be responsible for the balance.)

Student enrollment procedures for choice students in districts with send-receive agreements or in limited purpose regional districts

Q: If a choice student completes the terminal grade in a choice district with a limited grade span, can the choice student automatically enroll in the receiving district school or a constituent district with a regional high school (including a limited purpose regional district) to which the choice district's resident students are sent as part of a send-receive agreement or a constituent relationship?

A: Any choice student who reaches the terminal grade level of the choice school district either (1) returns to the resident district or to the resident district's receiving school if the receiving school has the requisite grade level; or (2) applies to and is accepted into another choice school district with the requisite grade level. In this second scenario, when a choice student needs to change school districts because they have completed the terminal grade, they must reapply to another choice district with the desired grades.

However, if the choice district in which the choice student has completed the terminal grade has a send-receive agreement or a constituent relationship with a school with the requisite grades and the receiving school is in a choice district, the receiving school choice district may give enrollment preference to the choice student from their sending district. If the receiving school choice district decides to give enrollment preference to choice students from its sending district, it must develop an acceptance policy that is equitable and defensible. A high school district should develop policy adopted by the board regarding choice student applicants and the preferences allowed.
If the student wants to apply to another choice district, the STUDENT APPLICATION TIMELINE For the 2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR and application process should be followed:

  • The choice student must fill out the choice application for the receiving choice district.
  • The new receiving choice district must notify the resident district of the student's change in enrollment by Jan. 17, 2014.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district by March 15, 2014.

Advertising and revising the number of choice seats available

Q: How should a choice district count the number of available seats as required in their Program Profile?

A: A choice district should count all seats for which a student application is required. This excludes any students who will convert automatically to choice students (e.g., tuition students). It includes siblings and students for whom an enrollment preference is given according to the board's acceptance policy (e.g., students from sending schools in send-receive agreements).

Q: How can a choice district revise the number of choice seats it offers in its profile?

A: Provided a district does not exceed its approved maximum number of seats, a choice district can revise the number of seats it offers in its profile and send an updated/revised program profile to the NJDOE program office. The NJDOE will post on the website all updated choice program profiles for parents to identify and learn about available choice options. This information should be provided to the NJDOE on an annual basis so that the website can be updated with the most current information.

Q: Must a choice district fill all of the choice seats advertised in its profile, or can the district choose to fill fewer seats?

A: A choice district must fill all of the choice seats advertised in its profile if it receives enough student applications to do so.

Tier 1 v tier 2 status for students entering kindergarten

Q: When is a student applying for enrollment in a choice program for kindergarten considered tier 1?

A: There are 2 categories of students that will be tier 1 when applying to a choice program for kindergarten:

  • The student attended public and free preschool school in his/her resident district for a full year immediately preceding enrollment in a choice district.
  • If no public and free preschool exists in the student's resident district, the student has a sibling currently attending the choice district.

This policy is designed to encourage students in high poverty districts where high quality preschool is offered to attend preschool so they will be ready for kindergarten.

Choice districts may give preference among tier 2 students to those with siblings in the district.

Application process for students who are enrolled in a charter school

Q: What is the application process for students who are enrolled in a charter school?

A: Charter school students are considered to be tier 1 in terms of their choice district application status. Either the chief school administrator of the charter school or the resident district superintendent should get the Confirmation of Enrollment for verification as Tier 1 from the choice district on 12/6/13, and then verify it by 12/13/13.

Handling preferences

Q: How are preferences handled in the application process?

A: Choice districts may establish polices granting preference to: 1. students with siblings enrolled in the choice district; 2. choice students from send-receive or limited purpose regional districts; or 3. resident students of the choice district who move during the school year and want to enroll in the choice district the following year.

Choice districts also may give preference among Tier 2 students applying to kindergarten to those with siblings in the district.

Students granted preference may be put ahead of Tier 1 applicants and need not be entered into a lottery with Tier 1 applicants. However, if there are more 'preference' students than open seats, there needs to be a lottery of preference students.

If enrollment preference is granted, the following process should be used:

  • The choice student must fill out the choice application for the receiving school.
  • The choice district must notify the resident district of the student's enrollment by Jan. 17, 2014. See the STUDENT APPLICATION TIMELINE for the 2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district by March 15, 2014.

Sibling preference

Q: How does sibling preference work?

A: Choice districts may grant preference to an applicant if a sibling is already enrolled in their choice program. A choice district may also grant sibling preference for siblings applying to the choice program in the same year, in accordance with board policy, such that if one sibling applicant is admitted to the choice program, his/her sibling will also be admitted, provided a choice seat is available in that grade. If choice districts develop a board policy granting sibling preference to new sibling applicants, they must devise a lottery that is fair and equitable and does not give increased chances for selection to those with siblings.

Choice districts may grant preference to tier 2 students applying to kindergarten to those with siblings already in the choice program.

Conducting lotteries

Q: What are the requirements for conducting lotteries?

A: When a choice district receives more applications than there are spaces available, the choice district must hold a public lottery to determine which students may participate in the choice program. The following processes are required:

  • Before conducting the lottery, the choice district may give preference to siblings of students already enrolled in and attending the choice district and to choice students attending a district with which it has a send-receive or constituent relationship; these students do not need to be entered into the lottery, unless there are more "preferred" students than there are available seats.
  • The choice district must assign a number to each student participating in the lottery and notify the parent or guardian of the lottery process, the date and time it will be held, and what number has been assigned to the applicant.
  • The choice district must develop a waiting list for those students not selected for admission in the lottery and must let the families know the student's number on the waiting list.

For some helpful hints on how one choice district  conducts its lottery, please visit "Resources."

Q: What types of public lotteries can be held?

A: Here are a few examples of types of lotteries that districts may choose to use:

Group lottery: Applications for all grade levels are combined into one group lottery. Students' names/numbers are drawn randomly and seats are filled according to the grade-levels of the applicants and the seat availability in the grades. A waitlist is created for all applicants whose names/numbers are drawn after the seats have been filled. Use the new Group Lottery District Profile Template.

Tiered or grade-level lottery: One or more grade levels are given priority in the lottery process. For each grade-level that is given priority by the district, a separate lottery is held. In other words, all applicants for the same priority grade-level are pooled and names are randomly drawn. Once available seats for the priority grade are filled and a waitlist is created, another lottery for the next priority grade level is held. Once all priority grade level lotteries have been held and waitlists are created, the remaining applications for the non-priority grades levels can be grouped into a group lottery. Use either District Profile Template.

Choice enrollment data deadlines and adding choice seats

Q: Can a choice district add additional choice seats after the enrollment data submission deadline (Jan. 24, 2014)?

A: A choice district cannot add additional choice seats after the enrollment data submission deadline (Jan. 24, 2014), unless it receives a signed waiver of the application deadline for a particular student or a student moves and the district agrees to convert that student to choice. In both these cases, the district will not get funding in the following school year for any seats added after the enrollment data submission deadline.

However, districts are allowed to enroll additional students as non-choice, non-resident, non-tuition students, but there is no guarantee that they will be converted to choice students in subsequent years. To become choice students, they would need to apply to the choice district in another year and if they have a choice sibling in the district, they would get enrollment preference (as long as the district policy gives preference to siblings).  These students would not receive any state funding and would not be treated like a choice student.  In the ASSA, these students should be counted as "Onroll" and  "Received->Misc.-> Other-Tuition Free".  These students should not be counted as "Onroll-Choice" students. In NJSMART these students should be coded as "resident" in their home district and "received/attending" in the choice district utilizing TUITIONCODE = 05 "Tuition Free."

Replacing choice students who decide not to attend after the NJDOE data collection deadline (1/24/14)

Q: If a choice district loses a choice student after he/she has submitted a Notice of Intent to Enroll form and the enrollment data has been sent to the NJDOE (after Jan. 24, 2014), can the choice district fill that seat with another student?

A: If a funded choice seat becomes available after the enrollment data has been submitted to the NJDOE because a student has withdrawn his/her Intent to Enroll, the district may pull students off its waitlist or accept new applicants, provided the total number of choice seats does not exceed the approved enrollment maximum . The choice district must use the waitlist and select the replacement students according to the policy and regulations governing the development and use of the waitlist. There is no deadline for districts to replace choice students who have withdrawn; as long as the seat is funded and available, districts can fill it with another choice student at any time.

In terms of resident district notifications, the choice district must notify the sending district as soon as the new choice student accepts enrollment, and send the transportation request. If any choice students decide not to enroll, the choice district should also notify the resident district transportation department of such.

If there are any changes to the transportation needs of accepted students, the choice district must send any new/revised transportation requests to the resident district immediately so the district can seek bids and make any needed changes. If a resident district receives a transportation request after the start of the school year, the district is not expected to seek bids and may offer aid in lieu of transportation to the student. Please read the choice transportation procedures.

Accepting late applications

Q: Can choice districts continue to accept student applications after the application deadline (Dec. 2, 2013)?

A: Choice districts may accept late applications after December 2. Late applicants may be added to the district's waitlist (if one exists) and may be accepted if seats become available, provided the district does not exceed its approved enrollment maximum. Choice districts may accommodate late applicants until all approved seats have been filled. However, any choice seats added AFTER the NJDOE data collection (1/24/14) will not be funded. Also see question above: "Replacing choice students who decide not to attend after the NJDOE data collection deadline (1/24/14)."

The choice district must notify the sending district by Jan. 17, 2014, or as soon as the student accepts enrollment.

Once a choice district has reached its approved maximum enrollment, it may not accept any more applications/enrollments. The only exceptions to this are for students who receive a waiver of the student application deadline approved by the Commissioner or resident students who move and elect to stay as unfunded choice students.

In terms of resident district notifications, the choice district must notify the sending district as soon as the new choice student accepts enrollment, and send the transportation request. If any choice students decide not to enroll, the choice district should also notify the resident district transportation department of such.

If there are any changes to the transportation needs of accepted students, the choice district must send any new/revised transportation requests to the resident district immediately so the district can seek bids and make any needed changes. If a resident district receives a transportation request after the start of the school year, the district is not expected to seek bids and may offer aid in lieu of transportation to the student. Please read the choice transportation procedures.

Application denials

Q: Under what circumstances can a choice district reject applicants? What process must a district follow?

A: The circumstances warranting rejection of an applicant who meets the eligibility requirements are limited, according to statute :

18A:36B-20 Applications by student to choice district.

A choice district shall not prohibit the enrollment of a student based upon a determination that the additional cost of educating the student would exceed the amount of additional State aid received as a result of the student's enrollment. A choice district may reject the application for enrollment of a student who has been classified as eligible for special education services pursuant to chapter 46 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes if that student's individualized education program could not be implemented in the district, or if the enrollment of that student would require the district to fundamentally alter the nature of its educational program, or would create an undue financial or administrative burden on the district.

A student whose application is rejected by a choice district must be provided with a written reason for the rejection in the Notice of Rejection.

The appeal of a rejection notice may be made by parents to the commissioner, through the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes. To learn more about this appeals process, see the Bureau's FAQs. The code for appeals can be found here: http://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap3.pdf and http://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap4.pdf

Resident district notification from non-public school students

Q: What must a student who is in a non-public school file with his/her resident district if they apply to or are accepted into a choice district?

A: All Non-public and public school students who attend public schools in the state must be registered with their resident district, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:38-1, et seq., and N.J.A.C. 6A:22-1.1, et seq., so non-public school students intending to enroll in a choice district should register with their resident district by Jan. 17, 2014. If the student receives a Notice of Conditional Acceptance in the choice program and sends the Notice of Intent to Enroll to the choice district, it is the responsibility of the choice district to send enrollment notification  to the student's resident district by 1/17/2014, as per the STUDENT APPLICATION TIMELINE For the 2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR. The choice district must also send the transportation requests for all their enrolled students to the resident district by March 15, 2014.

Enrollment of students who move from a choice district

Q: If a resident or choice student is enrolled in a choice district and that student moves, can the student stay in the choice district for the remainder of the current school year?

A: If a resident or choice student moves while they are enrolled in a choice district, the student decides if they will stay for the remainder of the school year. However, their status for the subsequent year depends on additional factors, such as the date of the move and whether they are a choice student or not. Please read the following FAQs.

Resident students who move from a choice district

Q: If a resident student is enrolled in a district that is a choice district and that student moves, can the student stay in the choice district? What are the processes that the student and district must undertake for budgeting and reporting?

A: In the case where a resident student moves out of a choice district during the school year, the parents/guardians of the student make the decision to remain in the choice district until the end of the current school year or move the student to the new resident district. The new resident district then becomes responsible for providing transportation for the student.

If a resident student is attending school in a choice district and moves to another district prior to the student application deadline and the district notifies the NJDOE of such prior to the student application deadline, the district must convert the student to a choice student in the subsequent year and will receive choice funding for that student.

If a resident student is attending school in a choice district and moves to another district after the student application deadline or the district notifies the NJDOE of the move after the student application deadline, the choice school district makes the decision to allow the student to remain in the choice district as an unfunded choice student in the subsequent school year and convert the student's enrollment to a funded choice student the following year if he/she remains in the choice program. The choice district must adopt a board policy that defines if it will allow the student to remain in the choice district as an unfunded choice student in the subsequent school year and must post the policy on their website and include in their Parent Information Center.
The following process should be used by a choice district that converts a resident student to a choice student:

  • The choice district must have documentation that the student has been converted to a choice student (the choice student application with the appropriate revisions may be used for this purpose).
  • The student must register with his/her new resident district to let the district know that he/she is a resident of the district.
  • The choice district must notify the resident district of the student's conversion to a choice student.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district as soon as the resident status changes and transportation services are needed.

Choice students who move from a choice district

Q: If a choice student is enrolled in a choice district and that student moves, can the student stay in the choice district the following year? What are the processes that the student and district must undertake for budgeting and reporting?

A: If a choice student is attending school in a choice district and moves to another district, that choice student is eligible to remain in the choice district as a choice student without application. The new resident district then becomes responsible for providing transportation.
The following process should be used:

  • The student must register with his/her new resident district to let the district know that he/she is a resident of the district.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district as soon as the resident status changes and transportation services are needed.

Student's commitment to participate in a choice program

Q: Is the Student's Notice of Intent to Enroll in the Choice District binding, and do students/families have to make a commitment to attend the choice district for a year?

A: Although we discourage applicants to choice programs from changing their mind after they have returned the Notice of Intent to Enroll, there is no penalty for students who later determine not to participate in a choice program or leave the choice district after acceptance. There is also no restriction on students enrolling in their resident district at any time. We hope and encourage choice students to uphold their commitment and remain in their choice district until the terminating grade.

Student Application Deadline Waiver

Q: Can a student apply to attend a choice district during the current school year if the choice district agrees to accommodate the student and absorb the cost in the first year?

A: According to the NJDOE code (http://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap12.pdf ): "A choice student applicant may seek from the Commissioner by a showing of good cause a waiver of the student application deadlines" in order to seek immediate enrollment in the current school year. (See the Q&A below and fact sheet on the waiver process.) Parents/guardians must request a waiver from the Commissioner by sending an email to pschoice@doe.state.nj.us.

Students with approved waivers can "bump" students on waitlists and may be accommodated even if the district exceeds its approved enrollment maximum.

Q: What constitutes "good cause," whereby a student may be granted a waiver from the application deadline from the Commissioner?

A: Waivers will be granted by the Commissioner only if there is a compelling reason. Waivers will not be granted for "convenience" reasons such as missing the application deadline. Please refer to the fact sheet on the waiver process.

Resident district limits on the number of students who can participate in the choice program

Q: Can a resident district limit the number of students that can participate in the choice program?

A: There are currently no districts that have been granted approval to limit the number of students that can participate in the choice program. While the choice law does provide for special circumstances whereby a resident district can limit the number of its students that can participate in the choice program, Commissioner approval is required. Read the Guidance for Districts Seeking Approval of Board Resolutions Limiting Student Participation in the Interdistrict School Choice Program.

Choice program enrollment for children of district staff

Q: Can teachers'/employee's children be given preference for available school Choice seats?

A: No, the district cannot give choice enrollment preference to employee's children. They will have to go into your lottery. However, those that don't make it via the lottery can be accepted as non-resident, non-tuition (explained below).

Q. What are our options to allow teachers' children to attend our choice schools?  What funding would the district be eligible for?  What codes would need to be used for ASSA reporting? Are the families eligible for transportation reimbursement?

A: Any teacher's children that already attend a choice district tuition-free cannot convert automatically to choice status.  If the district has not charged teachers' tuition for their children's attendance, then the district cannot convert them to choice (and now get money for those students).  However, the teachers' students can remain in the district as non-resident, non-tuition (explained below) or they can be entered into the choice lottery.

Non-resident, non-tuition students for teachers' children:

If the district adopts a new policy (or CBA) to accept teacher's students without tuition, it can do as non-resident, non-tuition students, which is outside the choice program. Choice rules DO NOT apply to these students: they would not receive choice funding and would not be treated like choice students (e.g., they would not be eligible for transportation services). Here's how to account for them:

  • In NJSMART these students should be coded as "resident" in their home district and "received/attending" in the choice district utilizing TUITIONCODE = 05 "Tuition Free."
  • However, in the ASSA, they should be treated as resident students (who will receive state funding). The School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) allows non-residents students of teaching staff attending school pursuant to board policy or the CBA to be treated as resident students for state funding. This subset of non-resident students is different from a non-resident student who is not a staff member's child. Regular non-choice, non-resident, non-tuition students would get no state funding.

Interdistrict Public School Choice Program
New Jersey State Department of Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500

Email: pschoice@doe.state.nj.us