Monday, February 13, 2012

The Fight for School Choice In New Jersey: Déjà Vu All Over Again

School choice supporters are fighting for passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA)—a school choice program that has bipartisan support from a bipartisan band of leaders including Senators Raymond Lesniak and Teresa Ruiz, Assemblymen Angel Fuentes and Lou Greenwald, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Governor Chris Christie. 

The OSA would allow thousands of children from low-income New Jersey families in the state’s most disadvantaged school districts to attend the schools of their parents’ choice.  And it would be the state’s first school choice program. Well, sort of.

According to a column by Bryan LaPlaca, on this day in 1997, New Jersey was on the forefront of the education reform news in a little town called Lincoln Park.

In February 1997, the Board of Education in Lincoln Park created a program that would allow parents to send their children to the high school of their choice—including private schools.  With a vote of 7-2, the Board overwhelmingly created and supported a voucher program in the Garden State.

Lincoln Park Public Schools serve students in grades K-8.  High school students living in Lincoln Park attend Boonton Public Schools as part of a two-district agreement.  The voucher program was seen as an alternative for students to attend the school of their parent’s choice.

"This is a choice," Trustee Bonnie Sudol said at the time. "It is a choice for parents who are not happy with Boonton."

During that year’s board elections, many of the seven who voted yes for Lincoln Park’s program lost and an anti-reform board voted down the program 5-4 in May 1997.

Fifteen years later, school choice advocates are back at it in 2012 with the goal of creating a scholarship tax credit program via the state legislature.

Let the story of Lincoln Park be a's not over until it's over!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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