TRENTON – By an 8-5 vote, the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced a controversial bill that would give businesses tax credits for funding scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools.
The Opportunity Scholarships Act (S-1872), sponsored by state Sens. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) has been blasted by the state teacher’s union.
“At a time when our public schools have suffered more than a billion dollars in cuts by the state, S-1872 would send up to another billion tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools,” said Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association. “That’s an educational travesty.”
“The intent of the Opportunity Scholarship Act is to give children from low-income families, who are forced to attend a chronically-failing school simply because of their zip code, an opportunity to get a quality education,” Lesniak said.
The cost of the pilot program is uncertain – its supporters put the price tag at $800 million, while the teachers’ union claims it will cost $1 billion or more.
If approved, up to 40,000 students in 13 qualifying districts would receive annual grants to attend private school — $9,000 for elementary and middle school students, $11,000 for high school students. The scholarships would be funded by corporate donations, while the businesses would receive state tax credits for their contributions.
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