NEW JERSEY ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS
Press Release: For Immediate Release
- Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, is available to discuss the impact of the Opportunity Scholarship Act in the wake of school budget cuts.
Proposed Voucher Program Impractical in
Wake of School Budget Cuts
TRENTON, N.J. – May 17, 2010 –The scholarship voucher program proposed by New Jersey lawmakers, while well-intended, has flaws that are magnified in the wake of slashed budgets and anticipated reductions that could last for years, according to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. Those much-needed funds could go a long way toward improving all public schools and not just the education of select low-income students, the group concluded.
The Opportunity Scholarship Act (S-1872) is a bill designed to increase choice for students in the state’s lowest-performing school districts. It allows corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to a state scholarship fund that will allow low-income students in failing schools to attend schools of their choice, including private, charter and public institutions.
“At first glance, the bill seems well-intended, but upon closer inspection, you realize that it would not have the desired effects,” said Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. “In fact, the act could result in consequences that could severely damage our public schools.”
At issue is the fact that corporate tax breaks could subsidize private and religious education as students from low-income districts choose to transfer to private or Catholic schools, for example.
In essence, the public treasury would divert funds to those schools at the expense of public schools. This would occur at a time when funds for the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) have been significantly cut.
“The act diverts $360 million in tax revenue that could be used to help fully fund the SFRA,” Dr. Bozza noted. “In addition, 25% of the funding is proposed to go to educate children who are already in private and parochial schools,” he said.
The New Jersey Association of School Administrators also opposes the Opportunity Scholarship Act, noted Dr. Bozza, because it fails to apply rigorous educational standards and accountability measures to all schools receiving public dollars. According to current law, no state accountability or educational standards can be applied to any private or religious school.
“Private and parochial schools are not required to demonstrate that they are doing a better job at educating students than the public schools from which the students come,” noted Bozza. “In fact, the private and parochial schools that accept voucher students are required to test only the voucher students, not the entire student body of the school.”
S-1872 cuts state aid to public school districts that lose voucher students to private and parochial schools and creates an “innovation fund” under the control of the commissioner of education. The commissioner is given sole discretion to use this money to award competitive grants to chronically failing schools for innovative practices. The affected districts would have to apply for those funds just lost.
“While this legislation pretends to be designed to help low-income students from chronically failing schools, the reality is that its pool of eligible students goes way beyond students from chronically failing schools,” Dr. Bozza explained. “It includes all low-income students from any district that has even one chronically failing school. For example, all low-income students from Edison and Highland Park become eligible because there is a chronically failing charter school in their region.”
“We all want a good education for our children,” he concluded. “But the answer is not to move students from low-income schools into private and religious schools. We need to support and improve our public schools in those failing districts. We encourage you to contact your lawmakers to voice your opposition to the Opportunity Scholarship Act, S-1872.”
The New Jersey Association of School Administrators is an organization of Chief Education Officers and school administrators who lead school districts in New Jersey’s 21 counties. The Association’s mission is to ensure a superior statewide system of education. Through ongoing professional training and education, the association shares knowledge among its members about best practices from both an educational and an administrative perspective. Its goal is to move education forward by ensuring the highest quality of instruction for all New Jersey’s children.
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