New Jersey Unveils Tax Breaks for Private School Parents

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Jenna Ashkenazie 

 

Recently, a bill was proposed in New Jersey to allow companies and organizations to donate money to private schools to enable low- and middle-income students to attend school tuition-free. The companies who donate will receive a tax credit, hopefully dollar to dollar. If the bill passes, eligible students (whose families meet the income requirements) will be able to attend private schools through this scholarship funding.  

 

Broad Backing 

 

This bill is sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal, Senator Joe Lagana, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, and Assemblyman Reverend Reginald Atkins. It is co-sponsored by numerous other senators and assemblymen and women, with the strong support of numerous organizations such as Agudath Israel of America and Teach NJ. These organizations, along with Muslim and Christian organizations, are working tirelessly for the passage of the bill so that all children, regardless of religion or financial background, can go to the school that is best for them.  

 

“The intention of the bill is to create options for everyone to be able to grow in the best setting that fits them,” said Assemblyman Avi Schnall (D-District 30, Monmouth and Ocean Counties), one of the bill’s co-sponsors.  

 

Critics Mobilize  

 

Critics have mobilized in recent days, and more than 50 public school advocates and progressive activists signed a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy and to legislators opposing the bill. 

 

“No state would presume to interfere in a family’s decision to send their children to private school. But public money is for public education, the bedrock of our communities and our democracy. Private school vouchers don’t belong here, and you know that, too,” they wrote. 

 

Much of the resistance is rooted in broad opposition to vouchers, which activists have fought off before in New Jersey. 

 

Critics contend vouchers do not result in better academic outcomes and instead hurt public schools by siphoning off students and state support. Many parents who pick private over public schooling opt for religious schools, meaning that public funds then get used for religious education, the critics add. 

 

When asked about the current backlash,  Shlomo Schorr, Director of Legislative Affairs at Agudath Israel of America, stated, “It isn’t a surprise. Opposition is expected.” Teachers who work at public schools believe that if a bill like this could take away funding from the public-school systems. Mr. Schorr was quick to refute this claim, stating that the bill complies with both state and federal constitutional law, and that the worries that these teachers have did not come to fruition when similar bills to this one were passed in other states.  

 

Families Helped Are All Taxpayers 

 

Assemblyman Avi Schnall  added, “Every child is a child of the state, and all the children of the state are children of taxpayers. So when they refer to public school or public money, I believe taxpayer money should go to taxpayers’ children. We should not debate which children should or shouldn’t be getting support from the state. It shouldn’t matter where a student goes if the state is committed to educating children.” 

 

Should this bill pass, the earliest it could go into effect, depending on the fine print of the final bill, would be for the 2025-2026 calendar year. The goal, according to Mr. Schorr, would be to have this bill passed by July of this year, and have the scholarship funds set up for the 2025-2026 school year. However, no one knows how long it will take before a decision is made.  

 

Advocate for This Needed Legislation  

 

This bill could greatly impact the lives of many families, allowing them to send their children to the school of their choice without having to make major life sacrifices. To help get this bill passed call your legislator and ask for their support, and if they already do, thank them, as legislators are always looking for support from the public. A phone call or email goes a long way.