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An important goal of the Department of Education is to offer educational choices to parents so that they can select programs that best serve their child's needs. There is wide support for public schools, but sometimes parents and children profit by having alternatives when they perceive that their local school is not serving their needs. Other than private and parochial schools, there are several choices that parents have -– charter schools, interdistrict public school choice, intradistrict public school choice, and home schooling.

In January 1996, the Charter School Program Act was signed into law. Charter schools are public schools established by founders under a specific mission and governed by a board of trustees. The Commissioner of Education announces the newly approved charter school applications every January. To find out whether there is a charter school in your community, you can check the list under Charter Schools on this Web site.

The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program is designed to increase educational opportunities for New Jersey students and their families by providing students with the option of attending a public school outside their district of residence without cost to their parents. Under this School Choice Program, interested New Jersey school districts can apply to become choice districts. These are districts that designate specific open seats into which they will accept nonresident students at the expense of the state. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Education selects the choice districts from those districts that have submitted a competitive application.

Another choice option that is required under the No Child Left Behind Act can be exercised within a Title I school. If a school is classified as "in need of improvement" because of not meeting the federal law's academic proficiency criteria for two consecutive years, parents must be offered a choice of another school in the district that does not have that classification. The same option must be made available to parents whose children attend a school that has been classified as "persistently dangerous."

More information is available at Title I; NCLB; Grants; and Keeping our Kids Safe.

The last option is one that lies outside the public school circle. Home schooling is a decision made by parents to educate children at home. In New Jersey, the Legislature, under the compulsory education law (N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25), has permitted children to receive "equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school," including the home.

More information is available at home schooling FAQ.