For decades, school choice has been the number one enduring issue facing Lakewood and Orthodox communities across the country. School choice is not purely a “Lakewood” issue. The battle for school choice is being fought in state legislatures across the country, with residents in some states faring quite well in comparison to New Jersey.
Actually, conservative Washington-based think tank the Heritage Foundation has ranked New Jersey almost dead last for overall education freedom. The only states to score lower were New York and Washington, DC.
Washington DC we may be able to overlook. But we need to take notice that both New York and New Jersey, two of the largest concentrations of Orthodox communities, are ranking at the bottom.
New Jersey also ranks next to last in spending, coming in just ahead of Connecticut. To calculate the score for spending, Heritage Foundation analyzes return on investment
for money spent on education per student. New Jersey spends about $20,000 per student in cost-of-living-adjusted terms, annually.
New Jersey’s expenditures are the fifth-highest per pupil when compared to other states. We also employ 0.94 teachers for every non-teacher staff member in our public schools. New Jersey’s unfunded teacher pension liability represents 20.5 percent of its state GDP. Heritage recommended that New Jersey can improve by lowering per-pupil spending, stopping growth in non-teaching staff, and addressing its significant unfunded teacher-pension liabilities.
Coming in 44th for transparency, Heritage notes that New Jersey lawmakers have not adopted proposals to increase academic transparency or that reject the prejudice caused by critical race theory in schools.
New Jersey also came in at 39 for school choice. Heritage noted that New Jersey does support charter schools and homeschooling which does increase choice to some degree. Presently there is no support at all for private schools even within this framework.
One of the brighter points on the horizon is that New Jersey has already approved funding for the “Teach STEM Classes in Nonpublic Schools Grant Program” which provided funding for public school teachers to the mosdos last year. While this approach comes with obvious concerns that would need to be addressed to work within a yeshiva system, it faces a lot less opposition.