Newark, NJ — March 31, 2011
Support is fading fast in the NJ Legislature for a bill that would divert public funds to subsidize private and religious schools through so-called “vouchers.” The non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS) recently confirmed that the 40,000 vouchers proposed in the bill would result in the loss of almost $850 million from the State Treasury.
Meanwhile, President Obama has come out forcefully against a similar voucher proposal for Washington, D.C., now pending before Congress. Here’s the full text of the Obama Administration’s opposition to the D.C. voucher proposal:
While the Administration appreciates that H.R. 471 would provide Federal support for improving public schools in the District of Columbia (D.C.), including expanding and improving high-quality D.C. public charter schools, the Administration opposes the creation or expansion of private school voucher programs that are authorized by this bill. The Federal Government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students. Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement. The Administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students.
Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C. While the President’s FY 2012 Budget requests funding to improve D.C. public schools and expand high-quality public charter schools, the Administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child.
“The President has it exactly right,” said David G. Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center. “Vouchers harm our public schools by draining scarce resources from the urgent challenge of improving public education for every student. And research continues to show that voucher schemes have no positive effect on student achievement.”
At a time when significant state aid cuts have resulted in program and staff reductions in public schools, the OLS review noted that under the proposed NJ bill, at least 25% of vouchers go directly to children already enrolled in private and religious schools. And any “leftover” vouchers not used by public school students will also be given to private schools students.
A sizeable portion of public funds for the voucher program will be funneled directly to private and religious schools. In addition, the private schools benefiting from voucher funding are not required to meet state academic standards or even comply with longstanding civil rights laws.
The OLS cost estimate for the voucher bill has surfaced at the same time that a Special Master appointed by the Supreme Court found that New Jersey’s public schools were under-funded by over $1.6 billion in state formula aid in the current year.
Judge Peter Doyne also found that, as a result of this aid reduction, 205 public school districts now fall below their “adequacy level,” or the amount the State has determined they must spend to provide the Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS) to all students. The 205 districts have budgets that are now $1 billion in total below the funding needed to deliver the CCCS.
“It’s time for the Legislature to leave the voucher bill behind once and for all and move on to the critical job of strengthening New Jersey’s public schools, especially those in high-need communities,” Mr. Sciarra added.
Education Law Center Press Contact:
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications