Letter to Editor: School Choice Decision Balances Needs of Students, District, Taxpayers

Letter to Editor: School Choice Decision Balances Needs of Students, District, Taxpayers

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Ocean City High School

December 30, 2015

To The Editor:

The Ocean City Board of Education (OCBOE) has been proud to participate in the New Jersey Department of Education’s School Choice Program. This legislation allowed students access to a thorough and efficient education, while aiding districts with funding. The OCBOE believes that our School Choice Program has brought added value to our district.

Due to the School Choice Program unexpected popularity across the state, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) voiced concerns about the program’s long-term funding ability. Without this assurance, the OCBOE formed an ad-hoc school choice committee to review this complicated matter with representation from our district, a School Choice family and the Upper Township Board of Education.

After careful and deliberate consideration over the course of many months, the ad-hoc committee recommended limiting Ocean City’s participation in the NJDOE School Choice Program to ninth grade students only who meet a rigorous academic criteria set by the OCBOE and approved by the NJDOE. This limitation also lessens the financial impact to the District, if the NJDOE lowers program funding in the future.

The NJDOE determined that there are two tiers of School Choice applicants. Tier 1 applicants are public school students who currently attend schools in their home districts. Tier 2 applicants are either non-public school students or school choice students who attend a public school outside their home district.

The ad-hoc committee determined that with this limitation then a new, expanded and long-term commitment could not be made to Tier 2 school choice applicants from a K-8 sending district. The committee offered to work with the K-8 Upper Township District to change the NJDOE status of their choice students to Tier 1 to meet the OCBOE standards.

Deciding to limit our participation in the School Choice Program has not been taken lightly. Balancing our educational program at a cost that our taxpayers can support is a complex matter. As stewards of the Ocean City School District, we will continue to make the tough decisions in the best interest of our students, our school system and our community.

Joseph S. Clark, Jr.
President, Ocean City School Board of Education