February 7, 2011; Source: NJToday.net | A bill under consideration in the New Jersey Assembly that would encourage corporations to donate to nonprofits that award private school scholarships for low-income students is raising questions about whether diverting money from public schools does more harm than good.

Under the proposed legislation, which last week received the unanimous approval of the Assembly's Commerce and Economic Development Committee, the state would set up a five-year pilot program that would offer tax credits to corporations that contribute to nonprofits that provide scholarships that enable low-income children to attend a nonpublic school or an out-of-district public school.

At least one lawmaker believes that, if approved, the bill would do more harm than good. “We can improve our public schools but you don’t do that by abandoning them and disinvesting in them,” said state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, a Democrat. Supporters of the bill say the opposite is true. Sen. Thomas Kean Jr., a Republican, said, "New Jersey stands poised to offer real, immediate help to children and families of limited means who are currently trapped in chronically failing school districts through no fault of their own.”

According to NewJerseyToday.net, under the proposed legislation, corporations would receive tax credits equal to 100 percent of their total contributions if they donate to scholarship funds that support private education of low-income students who attend a "chronically failing public school" or attend a nonpublic school that's located in a district with failing public schools. Under the first year of the bill, tax credit would be capped at $24 million, and then rising to $48 million, $72 million, $96 million, until finally reaching $120 million.—Bruce Trachtenberg