New Jersey's Interdistrict Public School Choice Program enables approved choice districts to enroll K-12th grade students who do not reside within their districts without cost to their parents. The program increases educational opportunities for students and their families by providing students with school options outside of their district of residence and giving parents the power to select a school program that best serves their child's individual needs.
District participation in the program is optional, but requires application to the Department of Education. Once approved, the choice district designates the available seats in specific grades and programs that are open to choice students. Where choice options are available, any student who resides in New Jersey is eligible to apply.
There are currently 124 participating Choice Districts in the 2020-21 school year.
Benefits of the Program
The Public School Choice Program benefits students and parents, as well as the choice districts. Choice programs might have smaller class sizes, increased instructional time, and a school culture more conducive to a student's success in school. Many choice districts have established specialized and innovative programs and courses that focus on areas such as the arts, math and technology, and are open to students who meet the eligibility requirements of the special programs. Opening enrollment to students outside the district can bring in more students interested in taking advantage of these special programs and courses, allowing both the programs and students to grow and flourish.
The state also has many small districts and schools that sometimes experience population shifts that result in budget crunches. Opening enrollment beyond the district's boundaries can alleviate the effects of these shifts and bring greater stability to operations, since choice students bring additional funding to the district. The addition of students with different backgrounds and perspectives from those of the district's resident students also can enrich the school community.