New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship (NJOSA) Study Notes & Review

Posted on June 23, 2010



It’s kind of like an end of semester blogging time here – a good time to review various posts on specific topics related to New Jersey education policy. My apologies to those of you looking for issues of national/broader interest. I’ll get back to those issues after this post.

In this post, I provide a brief summary of my previous posts related to the New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship Act. I have a handful of posts specifically related to this proposed legislation. But I have many others related to the private school marketplace, private school costs and quality.

In short, NJOSA is a “neo-voucher” policy which provides tax breaks to corporations that contribute to a scholarship pool, which then provides vouchers to children to attend private or other schools. Currently (NJOSA is being reworked as I write this), those vouchers would be made available to a combination of children attending “failing” schools and other income qualified children across New Jersey. In my series of posts on NJOSA, I point out that:

Finding #1) One of if not the biggest beneficiary of NJOSA is not a) the children trapped in poor urban (Newark, Camden, Jersey City) schools, or b) cash-strapped urban Catholic Schools (which lack sufficient other private contribution support to keep afloat), but rather, the highly racially and religiously segregated Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community and its schools. They constitute the largest number – by far – of “income qualified” current private school enrolled children in the state.

NJOSA & THE LAKEWOOD EFFECT

This finding was reported a few days ago in the Asbury Park Press

Finding #2) The premise that children will be saved from failing public schools with these paltry payoffs to low-end private schools is a stretch at best. Good private schools are expensive, and often more expensive than even the highest spending nearby public schools. The Milwaukee studies provide useful insights as well, showing little or no effect after much more than a trial period.

Would Scholarships Help Sustain NJ Private Schools?

NJOSA Must Read Items

Finding #3) Providing these vouchers might (would likely) increase private school enrollment, making certain private schools more accessible to low-income families. And, some students may benefit from this (while others may not). But, such a program will likely do little to cure the fiscal woes of cash strapped private schools. In fact, some have argued specifically in reference to Catholic schools that parishioner philanthropy to the schools may decline as those schools take on more non-Catholic students through vouchers, causing the school’s mission to drift.

This finding was covered by AP and reported in a handful of NJ outlets

Would Scholarships Help Sustain NJ Private Schools?
For more information on private school markets, costs and quality, see:

Major National/Regional Study on the Costs of Private Schooling by Type and Location, and Relationship to Quality Measures
http://www.epicpolicy.org/files/PB-Baker-PvtFinance.pdf

See also:

Washington Post Coverage of National Study
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/30/AR2009083002335.html

Education Week Op-Ed on National Study:
http://www.edweek.org/login.html?source=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/08/19/01baker.h29.html&destination=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/08/19/01baker.h29.html&levelId=2100