‘School choice’ bill is effort to create a voucher program in New Jersey, critics say

April 4, 2024

New Jersey would spend $250 million in taxpayer funds for students to attend private schools under new legislation that public school advocates are bashing as an ill-disguised effort to create a voucher program here.

The bill would give residents a tax break for contributions they make to an organization that would then dole out that money to students for scholarships to attend private schools.

There’s an income cap for eligibility — to qualify, students must be from households with incomes up to 4.3 times the federal income guidelines for reduced price lunch. That’s $248,196 for a family of four. For schools to participate, they must be in New Jersey and participate in the federal free and reduced lunch program.

The bill’s 14 Democratic sponsors call their plan the “New Jersey Student Support Act.”

“The intention of the bill is to create options for everyone to be able to grow in the best setting that fits them,” said Assemblyman Avi Schnall (D-Ocean), one of the bill’s sponsors.

Critics call the plan “garbage.”

“This is a time when our public schools are hurting. A third of our schools are facing teacher layoffs right now … and the Legislature can’t bring itself to figure out how to solve that problem. But 14 Democrats introduced this piece of garbage,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a public policy professor at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy who studies education policy.

“Our Legislature is a transactional system, and this reeks of a deal that was struck,” Sass Rubin said.

News from the States, April 4, 2024

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