Here’s the changes:
- The number of districts eligible for corporate-sponsored scholarships is down to seven: Asbury Park, Camden, Elizabeth, Lakewood, Newark, Orange, and Passaic. The last version had 13.
- There are fewer scholarships available: the pilot cost, once projected at $360 million, is down to a maximum of $138 million.
- Originally, 25% of the scholarships were set aside for students who already attended non-public schools, as long as their parents didn’t earn more than 250% of the poverty level. Now none of the scholarships are set aside for students who already attend non-public school and income eligibility is set at 185% of the poverty level.
This is especially relevant, given the continued inclusion of Lakewood, where the vast majority of the kids attend Orthodox yeshivas. (The public school kids – 80% Latino and 20% African-American – pay a steep educational and governance cost because so much money and political will goes towards non-public transportation and out-of-district support services, including, for instance, separate buses for girls and boys.)
Here's my description of the problems in Lakewood.
Back to OSA. Last week Bruce Baker over at SchoolFinance101 (and Rutgers) posted “Revisiting NJ OSA and the Lakewood Effect.”
Dr. Baker writes,
In other words, all of the other locations [eligible for scholarships] combined do not have the sum total of low income private school enrolled children that Lakewood has. Lakewood would likely be the epicenter of NJOSA scholarship distribution. I noted in my first post on this topic that if the average scholarship amounts were as proposed, the Lakewood yeshiva schools would stand to take in as much as $67 million per year in these indirect taxpayer subsidies.Here’s Dr. Baker’s map of the Lakewood private school marketplace & current enrollments.
Dr. Baker’s analysis is based on earlier versions of the bill, and doesn’t include important changes like the lowering of income eligibility and the decision to not award 25% of the scholarships to kids already in private/parochial school. These changes should allay some of those concerns. But that raises the question of why sponsors of the legislation would tarnish the bill’s noble intentions with the inclusion of a district with a sullied reputation.
(By the way, Gordon Macinnes's editorial today in NJ Spotlight against OSA is based on the old version.)