Children of single mothers may not always get the best deal. This applies to education as much as anything else. Often children in this situation are unable to attend the best schools due to the financial constraints that their mothers face.
However, there is a program that is about to be put in place called the Opportunity Scholarship Act that attempts to address this issue and ensure that children from low-income families such as those headed by single mothers are able to get into better schools in the state of New Jersey.
The Opportunity Scholarship Act is currently in the pilot stage. This article is here to provide you with all of the basic information that you may need to make any decision about it, as well as answering some of the more common questions that single mothers interested in benefiting from the program have raised over time.
What is the Opportunity Scholarship Act?
The first thing that we have to consider when looking into the Opportunity Scholarship Act and how it can be of benefit to single mothers is just what, exactly, the Opportunity Scholarship Act is. Here are some of the basic facts that you may need to know in understanding this act:
- It is a corporate tax credit scholarship bill
- It will fund scholarships for low-income students attending the state’s lowest performing, chronically failing public schools
- It will enable students to attend out-of-district public schools, or non-public schools anywhere in the state
- The ‘state’ in question in the previous point is New Jersey, the only area where the Opportunity Scholarship Act is in effect
What are the eligibility requirements in order to benefit from this Act?
Single mothers may be in a good position when it comes to the eligibility requirements for the opportunity scholarship act. The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- You need to be a low-income student
- You need to be attending a chronically failing public school in one of the districts that have been defined in the opportunity scholarship act
- You must earn no more than 185% of the federal poverty level (this is based on the size of your family)
As you can see, single mothers, who frequently fall into the low-income category and probably can only afford tuition at failing schools, are likely to be able to benefit from the Opportunity Scholarship Act quite easily.
Seven districts in New Jersey with chronically failing schools have been identified in the Opportunity Scholarship Act pilot. These districts are the following:
- Asbury Park
130 schools have been identified in these seven districts and are laid out. In order to qualify as a failing school more than 40% of the students need to have failed math and languages over the last two years, or 65% of the students need to have failed either math or language over the past two years.
Are there similar programs in other states?
As the Opportunity Scholarship Act has only been put into place in New Jersey a question that often arises in the minds of single mothers looking for a way to improve their situation is whether or not there are similar programs or acts in place in other states around the country. There are a few other states that have programs such as this one.
In Pennsylvania, for example, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program allows single mothers to send their children to great participating schools of their choosing and thereby improve their chances of making a success out of their lives.
A few other states like Arizona, Rhode Island and Florida also have programs very similar to the one in Pennsylvania and that also all bear a strong resemblance to the Opportunity Scholarship Act of New Jersey. Another program aimed at helping students in failing schools is Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program. So there are a few other options out there other than the opportunity scholarship act, but the Opportunity Scholarship Act is definitely one of the best.
Are there similar programs to the Opportunity Scholarship Act in New Jersey?
Nation-wide there is a well-established history of government funding for students to attend public or non-public schools of their own choosing and New Jersey is no exception. With help from the government children can attend the best:
- Special education providers
These will be chosen by the parents of the children in question and will be funded by the state. Like the Opportunity Scholarship Act these programs are aimed at ensuring that children get the best education possible in the state of New Jersey and that they will not get left behind.
Management of the Opportunity Scholarship Act program
The Opportunity Scholarship Act will be managed by a scholarship organization that will be appointed through the most democratic of means. When the act is eventually passed the organization will be responsible for managing the scholarship application process for the pilot school district, reviewing and verifying the residence and income of a scholarship applicant, compiling an inventory of vacancies in participating schools available for potential scholarship recipients, conducting necessary student selection lotteries, and monitoring the enrollment of scholarship students in eligible schools and allocating scholarship funds to those schools.
Is the Opportunity Scholarship Act fair?
The Opportunity Scholarship Act specifically prohibits any participating schools from discriminating against prospective students on the basis of:
- Academic ability
- Athletic ability
The only exception is in single-gender schools where the school will be permitted to choose students based on their gender.
What if too many children apply for a scholarship under the Opportunity Scholarship Act?
If more children apply for a scholarship under the Opportunity Scholarship Act then there are spaces available for them at their grade level in participating schools, a lottery will be held to determine which children will get in. This is the fairest possible way to manage the problem. However if a child already has a sibling that is enrolled in one of the participating schools he or she will be given preference and will be granted admission to that school before the lottery takes place.
How much is a scholarship worth and what if the tuition at the school costs more than the scholarship provides?
Scholarships offered under the act are “worth the higher of a percentage of the average per-pupil costs in all pilot districts with chronically under – performing schools, or $6,000 for students in grades K-8, and $9,000 for high school students”. In the event that this is not actually enough to cover the tuition that school in question charges the school will still have no choice but to accept the child and consider the scholarship as full payment for the child’s tuition.
Will the schools participating in the program be of the best quality?
There are a number of measures in place to ensure that the non-public schools that are involved in the program are of good quality. The measures that have been put in place to guarantee this can be found here. If you take the time to read through them carefully and consider the implications that these measures will have on the quality of the schooling provided you will see that if your child is enrolled in a scholarship program under the Opportunity Scholarship Act they will receive only the best in tuition.
What entrance tests will my child need to do in order to get into a participating school?
A big question that arises in the minds of single mothers trying to benefit from the scholarship opportunity act is this: “What entrance tests will my child need to do in order to get into a participating school?” The answer is that there are no entrance tests. In fact participating schools are specifically forbidden to use them. The only assessment of your child that will take place will be once they have entered the school, and these assessments will only be used to determine how your child can best be served by the school academically speaking.
Now that you have read through all of the basic information related to the Opportunity Scholarship Act you should be in a position to a) know whether or not you and your child qualify for assistance from this program and b) whether or not it is the kind of program that you can benefit from. Your child’s education is important now and in the future, and it is definitely not something that you want to compromise on. Consequently it is well worth your while to look into this program and see whether or not it will suit your needs. There are plenty of things to keep in mind when looking into the Opportunity Scholarship Act, but if you live in New Jersey and fulfill the other eligibility requirements there is no reason why you should not take this great chance to get your kid into the best school possible.