Friday, May 11, 2012

Battleground State: New Jersey

The Garden State has been in a long fight to bring school choice to its disadvantaged students.  And thanks to a broad coalition of supporters, advocates, and elected officials, the Garden State is in a position to enact the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA), a scholarship tax credit program for students from low-income families attending the state’s poorest-performing schools.

New Jersey Education

New Jersey has the highest per-pupil expenditure after New York, spending more than $17,000 per-pupil.    In math, only 51 percent New Jersey fourth graders are proficient.  Among African American students and Hispanic students only 24 percent and 28 percent are proficient respectively.  In reading, only 43 percent of students are proficient, with 25 percent of African American students and 25 percent of Hispanic students performing at grade level.

The Major Players

Governor Chris Christie (R)

The Republican Governor has called for the New Jersey General Assembly to pass school choice legislation before the current session ends in fewer than 50 days.  Governor Christie not only has made the OSA the centerpiece of his education reform package, but he’s advocating for children every day.  Last week, he spoke at the American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit where he told the crowd that he’s ready for fight for this legislation.  And earlier this year, he called for the resignation of Vincent Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association for saying life’s not fair to low-income families that are looking to escape failing public schools.

Mayor Cory Booker (D)

This elected official not only rescues neighbors from burning homes, but he calls for children to have access to a great education, no matter the delivery system.  Mayor Booker also keynoted the American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit, where he spoke about patriotism and the need to provide more for our children.   In fact, he asked how people can be against school choice when they themselves are not willing to send their kids to poor-performing schools.  Known as America’s mayor, we’re happy that Mayor Booker is on the side of children.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D)

This newly elected member of the New Jersey Assembly not only supports the OSA, but is speaking out in support of this legislation.  Assemblyman Singleton wrote,

“The OSA, as well as other strategic programs that are intended to enhance the educational opportunities of our children, is the answer. In approving the OSA, we must step outside of our preconceived notions and work toward our common goal of providing the best education for our children who are falling through the cracks year after year.”

Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D)

A rising star in the General Assembly, Assemblyman Fuentes is not only an outspoken member of the legislature, but has a strong commitment to improving educational outcomes in the Hispanic community.  In fact, Assemblyman Fuentes is a prime cosponsor of the OSA.

Senator Raymond Lesniak (D)

Senator Lesniak has shown his support for New Jersey’s most disadvantaged students via outspoken support for the Opportunity Scholarship Act.  His leadership in the Senate has helped increase bipartisan support for school choice legislation.

The Advocates

We Can Do Better New Jersey

Founded in 2010, We Can Do Better New Jersey, works to educate residents of New Jersey about the Opportunity Scholarship Act and to mobilize supporters of school choice.  With the supporters around the state, We Can Do Better is working to get the OSA enacted.

Excellent Education for Everyone (E3)

Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) believes your zip code shouldn’t determine your child’s future.  E3 fights to improve urban public schools by empowering parents with school choice.

Better Education for Kids (B4K)

B4NJKids (B4K) supports broad education reform in New Jersey by making education reform about what’s best for New Jersey children, not special interests and the status quo. Working to ensure that every classroom has an effective teacher and every school is provided with the resources to have effective administrations, B4K works to hold educators, leaders, and elected officials accountable for their performance.

The Legislation

The Opportunity Scholarship Act would create a corporate scholarship tax credit program that would provide scholarships to children from low-income families that attend schools in chronically failing public school districts.  Limited to a few districts, including Newark, scholarships are capped at $6,000 for elementary school students and $9,000 for high school students.  The legislation—Assembly Bill 2830 and Senate Bill 1779—has bipartisan support in the legislature and the support of Governor Chris Christie.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment