Sparta Board of Education Moves to Accept Tuition Students

Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ - On Monday, July 28, the Sparta Board of Education passed a resolution adopting a Tuition Student policy that allows for students from other districts to apply for acceptance as a student in Sparta schools. The student’s family would be responsible for paying the tuition, as they would for a private school. 

Superintendent Dennis Tobin said that beginning this month, the next steps would be to discuss the matter with the Administrative team including the Director of Curriculum Dr. Melissa Varley, Business Administrator Linda Alverez and the district’s principals. They would look at enrollment to determine where students could be accepted; which schools or grade levels could accomedate additional children. That is something that will likely be revisited each year.

In addition, Tobin indicated the administrative team would discuss the application and screening process. He will continue to look at other districts, such as Allendale-Northern Highlands, that currently have such a program to see how their tuition programs work.

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Once there is input from the administrators, Tobin will have the issue on the agenda for the Curriculum, Operations and Finance Committees of the board of education to discuss the team’s recommendations.   

Tobin said the district will use the rates set by the State Department of Education.  The district approved the Annual Tuition Rates for the 2014-2015 school year at the meeting on May 27, 2014:

  • Regular Ed/Special Ed Blended Preschool $ 3,000
  • Regular Education Preschool/Kindergarten $12,479
  • Regular Education Grades 1-5 $14,243
  • Regular Education Grades 6-8 $16,629
  • Regular Education Grades 9-12 $15,698

Note: Preschool program for blended special education and regular education – tuition charged for regular education only. Special Ed students are not charged tuition.

More than a year ago the board discussed the question of becoming a Choice school district. Tobin was in favor of Sparta joining the state program that allowed students from other districts to attend Sparta schools.  At the time Tobin indicated it was one of the few ways a public school district could raise money.

Many members of the community spoke against joining the state program, citing Sparta’s inability to select, reject or eject a student under the Choice program. Once the student was in Sparta’s schools they could not be sent back to the home district.

The differences between the Tuition Student policy and the Choice program include:

  • Sparta school district will be able to be selective with a screening process for potential students,
  • Once accepted the student could be returned to their home district if there were discipline or academic issues,
  • The family, not the state, must make the tuition payment to the district. 

Students would not be allowed to be recruited for athletic purposes. According to NJSIAA rules, “Any student coming [to Sparta] as a non-resident tuition student would be required adhere to the NJSIAA 30-day transfer rule.  That rule applies to students who transfer from one school to another for reasons other than a change of address.  They are ineligible to participate for 30 days, not to exceed half of the season, in any sport in which a student has previously participated at the varsity level.”  There are other rules that apply to other circumstances as well. 

There are many public school districts throughout New Jersey that currently have a tuition program in place including Allendale, Cresskill, Princeton and Haddonfield. 

Haddonfield Public School has had a tuition program in place since the early 1990’s.  According to High School Principal Charles Klaus, the program was strong at first but interest waned in the early 2000’s.  “The program has been revitalized and is a lucrative source of revenue,” said Klaus.

They currently have 35 students at the high school and approximately 10 at the Middle School.  “Students are allowed to apply beginning in the sixth grade though most enter as ninth graders,” he said. 

Tuition students come from many different towns, some in the neighboring towns and even a few from Philadelphia. Prospective students complete an application and then a screening interview by a school administrator. Typically applicants also take advantage of the Student for a Day opportunity they have to visit the building following a typical schedule.

Klaus said, “We find it to be a positive experience and financially beneficial along with the added benefit of having some different points of view in our small town.”

Tobin indicated there will be future announcements about the program as details become finalized.

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