Op-Ed: School Vouchers for Lakewood

school vouchersBy: Aaron Joseph. I would like to make a simple proposal: School Vouchers for Lakewood. Now for just a brief outline: Nearly every town in the United States has a public school system. Citizens are taxed, and part of the tax revenue is allocated to run this public school system. Lakewood is no exception, and has quite a large public school system.

School vouchers are a means for enabling parents to decide which school they would like to send their children to, should they opt for other then the public school system. Simply put, a parent would inform the Board of Education that they would like to transfer their child to a private or charter school, and request a voucher that would go towards covering the cost of that school’s tuition.

There are many voucher programs currently up and running within the United States. Not all voucher programs are the same. Leading the United States in big city status is Milwaukee, Wisconsin with over 15,000 students enrolled in its voucher program. In the state of Maine, not every small village has a school, and therefore some villages pay tuition for its students to another district that they attend in surrounding villages. Of note, the state of Indiana just recently passed a state school voucher program. Indiana’s program would offer a total of $4,500 per student from households with incomes under $41,000.

While the benefits would be obvious, the opponents stem from differing philosophies. From those who grunt about the unfair tax burden to begin with, to those who claim that opening up tax payer money to other then public school systems would somehow undermine the public school level of education. Most notable amongst those with this argument are public school teachers. The proponents argue that competition can only help.

To allay the fears that a school voucher program would be barred from paying for students going to a religious school, don’t fret, as the United States Supreme Court has already ruled in your favor. This particular issue was settled do to a voucher program installed by the city of Cleveland, Ohio during 1995.

Seemingly, a majority of residents who opted to benefit from Cleveland’s voucher program were sending their children to Catholic schools. The Chief Justice’s opinion, writing for the majority was: “The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual aid recipients not the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits.” Or- The government is neither directly influencing nor promoting religion, and is leaving it to the parents to decide where and what they educate their children with.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Ohio program did not violate the Establishment Clause, because it passed a five part test developed by the court in this case. It is called the Private Choice Test. A: that the program must have a valid secular purpose, B. that aid must go to parents and not to the schools, C. that a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered, D. that the program must be neutral with respect to religion, E. that there must be adequate nonreligious options.

While how this program may be implemented here in Lakewood is beyond the scope of this article, a few of the more difficult challenges are readily apparent.

As of today, roughly 1/3 of Lakewood households representing 4/5 of Lakewood school age children are registered in private schools. Of the other 1/5 of Lakewood Public School Children, over half come from renting households whom do not even contribute to the tax base to begin with. So obviously, it is apparent to one and all exactly who such a tax burden would fall upon to pay for a voucher program.

I often wonder out of curiosity, what would happen if the 4/5 of the school age children in Lakewood would suddenly be registered into the Lakewood public schools. Would that mean that the base tax rate in Lakewood would suddenly lurch upwards by 4/5ths?

I expect an open forum can and would contribute greatly to the particulars of how to innovate a Lakewood School Voucher program. It is not beyond reach, and perhaps can serve as a pilot program for the rest of the county or even state. Of course if it can be coached into reality in Trenton, it would certainly alleviate any local discussion and resources, and surely benefit a worthy cause here, and across the state.

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  1. The authors arguments are well founded and not subject to Lakewood only. I do not believe that there is ample Private Schools in the county let alone in Lakewood to allow a local voucher program to be implemented using the Private Choice Test under the ruling of the Supreme Court.

    There is a second more common option. Tax breaks for local home owners for each child registered in a private or secondary school. This would certainly assist local low and middle income families that search for options for their children’s education that remains out of reach because of high costs.

  2. “Of the other 1/5 of Lakewood Public School Children, over half come from renting households whom do not even contribute to the tax base to begin with. So obviously, it is apparent to one and all exactly who such a tax burden would fall upon to pay for a voucher program.”

    This statement is totally FALSE! The taxes the Landlord pays comes from the rent the tenant pays. What do you think the Landlord pays them themselves.

    So how much of your article is twisted to make your point?

  3. There are rules limiting rent increases. There are no real rules limiting tax increases. So obviously it’s not the renter really footing the tax bill. If taxes go up 10%, the landlord has to absorb it.

  4. There is nothing in the article that is twisted.
    What the article writer was politely hinting at is the fact that so many landlords cram many illegal immigrant families into one house and as such get a higher rent but do not pay a higher tax rate. (and even start with “what about large legal families” when you are taking advantage of a situation).
    The only thing twisted here is your logic or lack of.

  5. I hope you know every state has its own laws and rules. You cant say that since one state is doing something another must also do it, it has to be in the laws of that state.

  6. I think that it would be a great idea! Not only would it be a great way for the schools to save money, it would mean that the government would oversee the schools to make sure that the children are well educated and meeting curriculum standards. Oh, wait…

  7. What the voucher system would do is finish public education in NJ.
    Instead of fleeing the system people should try to fix it.
    In Lakewood it would be giving money to people who already send their children to private schools which would overnight turn into “charter schools” that only certain people could attend ( can you say discrimination).
    Also NO ONE in the frum community is going to send their children to public schools for a variety of reasons we won’t get into here, so I wish people would stop making this idle threat. And, by the way the school system COULD accommodate more students.
    People who send their children to private schools better pray that the public school stays healthy cause I can just hear the wailings of people having to pay for or provide transportation to school. And, before you complain, private transportation would cost a heck of a lot more than taxpayer/government subsidized public school transportation that everyone has a hand in paying for.

  8. While your comments and assessments have lots of merit, a voucher system in Lakewood would cause our property taxes to skyrocket.

    The NJ system has been designed as such that the local school system is supported by the biggest portion of our tax bill. The local public school system will be here whether or not we get vouchers and will need to be covered by our taxes. If we now add the cost of school vouchers, that too, will need to come from our local taxes.

    Furthermore, as mentioned above, a large percentage of our town does not pay property taxes (as renters) but will be pulling out money for education for vouchers.

    This – will break the bank.

  9. So what the article is saying is that you will pay your school taxes then get it back in a voucher, that you will use to send your children to private schools. So here is my question, if you don’t pay school taxes because you get the money back, who will be paying for all the busing to the private schools, who will pay for the $20 million for special needs children, who will pay for the preschool programs?

  10. This system will only work if schools adopt an acceptable general studies academic curriculum. Vouchers can’t be used for exclusively religious education programs. The student acceptance standards by school administration would also need to conform to other standards than they currently uphold.

  11. soon no one will be able to afford to live in lakewood except the people on welfare and Jersery care. The middle class will be gone,the seniors gone. The only people living here will be attending BMG and Georgian court.

  12. With all the problems we are now facing because the government seems to think they can spend money they do not have ,this is a bad idea . when will everyone realize its not the governments place to finance individuals choices that they should be paying for themselves ,this is what got this country into the mess we are now faced with SPEND SPEND SPEND an in the end we all will be paying for this nonsense

  13. the YES (Yeshiva Day School) under Harav Michel Twerski leadership has many students that are getting school vouchers. That is how the school is mainly operating. This is very helpfull for the kollel yungerleit. ps housing is so much cheaper than in Lakewood and the East Coast. So is the material level of living is less of an influence being that its an out of town torah/yeshiva community.

  14. UNDERSTAND THIS; giving vouchers means the sending district possibly going into another district,must accpet the student, if there is room for the student., if not , what then.

    You will have transportation to pay for, if you have 4 CHILDREN AND THEY ARE GOING TO OTHER DISTRICTS, YOUR PAYING, Transportation, what makes you think that it will be cheaper, when your child has a vpoucher to go to a private school, what makes you think this child will be accepted based on that voucher, it means the school will have to have a place for them, larger classes different starting times, and of course TRANSPORTATION, GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT.

  15. move all public schools out of lakewood lets say to brick or toms river bec. most of the kids are anyways not from lakewood SO WHY DO THE LAKEWOOD TAXPAYERS HAVE TO PAY FOR THE KIDS SCHOOLS IF THE KIDS ARE NOT FROM LAKEWOOD????????????????

  16. to #18 and why would brick or jackson want our kids? 4,000 wouldn’t be enough and it would overcrowd their schools.
    Schools are not required to accept vouchers, it would be a selective system and it would never cover the 5000 students in the public schools.
    If there were no public schools there would be no courtesy (safety) busing. We certainly know that not all those streets could possibly be dangerous, someone looking into that would probably disagree.
    Watch for what you wish for.

  17. in order for a child to attend lakewood public schools, they must prove that they live in lakewood and have

    in order for a child to attend a lakewood public school they have to prove that they live in lakewood with FOUR (4) proofs of residency! So where do you get off saying that these children don’t live in lakewood? What about the children that live in Brooklyn and parents send them here to live with relatives to obtain Special services from lakewood? And they are not mexicans or latinos. Go figure

  18. what this writer is writing is something that i have looked into and studied .

    i hope TLS lets it through even though i will say some things people do not want to acknowledge

    because in my opinion the financial situation in lakewood private school is unsustainable . the schools are soon going to all go bust , and one year on the day after labor day you will have an additional 25000 children enrolled in a district that can handle about 5000. it will take at least 5-10 years for the BOE to absorb so many children.

    so then we have to look at the options

    a. first to answer the article writers question. in NJ vouchers are not currently legal so it is not an option

    b.based on the income of most lakewood resident enrolling the 25000 private school children in the public school would give lakewood an Abbotts district status . in short it means that most the money would be comming from the state , not the district.
    the BOE would then be able to offer a settlement to those who “opt” to go to a private or charter school> such a settlement would in all probability be challenged and end up in supreme court but it is possibly the only option that lakewood would have .

    so why hasn’t this happened.

    for the there is a combination of a few reasons.

    – local taxes would go up , not 400% but enough that those that do not benefit from this settlement would make a lot of noise and it would cause a lot of friction , this is not something anyone want,

    – those in charge are waiting until the private school system is so big that it will be impossible for the BOE to ever absorb the private school children. at the rate we are going the amount of private school children will outnumber LEGALLY renolled public school children by a ration of about 10:1 in under 10 years

    – based on my research of abbots districts and based on what the state pays , and what the district has to pay , and based on the average family size of those sending to private schools and the amount of tuition they pay i have come to a conclusion that for those who own more than 1.5 million dollars ( tax accessed) of lakewood real estate , even if they have an average size family the raise in taxes will outdo the benefit. it can be argued that the number my be as low as 1 million or as high as 2 million and i wont argue with that . what i will say is that may of those who are “involved ” ( and i wont mention names) have over that amount of real estate and are only thinking about themselves . therefore we will have to wait until the private school system goes bust .

    – it is no secret that the 25000 children are mainly from one segment. if such a settlement was offered within 2-3 years everyone from that segment from with school age children age children that have many school age children from new york city , monsey , and jersey would move to lakewood . this would have an undesirable affect on the town and it would cause rents and housing prices to go up so high that those living in lakewood now who rent or will be looking to buy houses in the future , will have to pay so much more for rent and morgages that it will eat up a large part of what the gain. it is impossible to peg a number to it , but you can say that those that will benefit most will not be current lakewood resident but rather those that move to lakewood to take advantage of such a settlement . therefore in order for such a settlement to succeed it would need a lot of planning to keep a mass migration to lakewood from happening, and it would take careful planning.

  19. You need public schools or there is no funding for private and no transportion get your facts straight. Also you can’t have 6 kids in private schools and expect vouchers, there is no money, get the news from the state yet, there is no money…..All the programs are very nice but THERE IS NO MONEY…..No one is getting anything. Listen to your governor its hard times and he is cutting hard.

  20. number 18. That is what has been happening since I left lakewood in 1998. Went to Lakewood highschool when the graduation rate was in high 80’s and not a pathetic 30 something. When the sports program was winning state titles, and people didn’t have to walk through a metal protecter. That is why jackson made a new highschool. Preparing for what will happen. The problem is you, and your comments which you just made. People were here before you. When your child was looking for the same programs which you wish to take away. Just because your in the majority now, does not give you the right to take away ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN A TOWN! If my article does not get erased for speaking the truth, I will be shocked!

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