Trenton, NJ – As New Jersey struggles to improve its poor, urban schools, the liberal-leaning state is considering government-backed scholarships to help pay for children to attend private schools. Lawmakers are considering a variation of voucher programs for students attending some of its poorest schools, mostly in bigger cities.
“We cannot continue to look at things the way we have in the past or else this state will not be able to keep its place as one of the best,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union.
Lesniak is pushing legislation that would provide scholarships to help low-income children in Camden, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Lakewood, Newark, Orange, Paterson and Trenton pay tuition at nonpublic schools.
The scholarships would be paid by corporations, which in turn would receive state tax breaks. Over the first five years, the program would cost the state $360 million.
But not all lawmakers are convinced.
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, attended Catholic schools, but said she cannot support legislation that wouldn’t help every Garden State student.
“I can’t in good consciousness support a bill that doesn’t take care of a collective but only supports a few,” Ruiz said.
But parents and advocates from the state’s poorest cities are pressing New Jersey lawmakers to approve the measure.