The OSA seeks to create a four-year pilot program that would allow the Department of the Treasury to issue tax credits to corporations in exchange for donations to scholarship organizations.
- Funds raised would be allocated to “target districts” that are among the state’s most underperforming districts, including Newark and Camden.
- Vouchers would be distributed to the parents or guardians of low-income children that currently attend “chronically failing school[s].” The individual scholarships would be distributed on a rolling basis unless the number of applicants exceeds the number of available scholarships, in which case there would be a lottery.
- The OSA would create a special board to oversee the administration of the program and monitor its impact.
To be eligible for a voucher, a child must come from a low- income household, which means the child is “from a household with an income that does not exceed 1.85 times the official federal poverty level based on family size…” If a child satisfies the “low-income” threshold and is currently attending a chronically failing school, then he or she would become eligible to receive a $6,000 scholarship for grades K–8 and a $9,000 voucher for high school.
The vouchers can be used at any approved and participating out-of-district public or private school. Participating schools must accept the scholarship as payment for the child’s full tuition and keep the student enrolled for at least two years. If the school is religiously affiliated, the student must be allowed to opt out of any religious instruction or activities.
To maintain student cohesion, if a child loses his or her “low-income” status, he or she will maintain the scholarship until completing the eighth or twelfth grade. The seven target districts would be responsible for the costs of transporting a voucher recipient to the new school. Despite incurring transportation costs, target districts would still receive state aid for students residing in their districts who are participating in the program. In effect, some schools would receive significant funding for students that do not even attend their schools.
From “New Jersey ‘s Opportunity Scholarship Act: A Step in the Right Direction” by Joseph W. Catuzzi in Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, Volume 2014