Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Governor Christie Should Talk Education at the GOP Convention

Governor Chris Christie, who is giving the keynote address tonight at the Republican National Convention, has a great opportunity to address an issue that both Republicans and Democrats need to hear: creating more educational options for children all across the nation.  When the governor takes the stage tonight, he should use that time to talk about school choice.

While pundits and talking heads argue that America is more polarized than ever before, Christie should point out that school choice—in both vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs—are supported by both Democrats and Republicans.  Rather, it’s partisan politics as usual that is preventing school choice from becoming a real option for so many American families.

In New Jersey, for example, Governor Christie championed the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA), a scholarship tax credit program for children from low-income families.  And he had strong Democratic support in the legislature.  Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Assemblyman Angel Fuentes, Assemblyman Troy Singleton, and Senator Raymond Lesniak are only some of the prominent Democrats who supported the initiative.  In fact, the legislation had enough votes in both chambers to pass.  Why isn’t the OSA law in New Jersey?  The Speaker of the Assembly never let the bill come to a vote.

But a setback in New Jersey isn’t the only story.  In 2011, seven new private school choice programs were created and 11 programs were expanded.  And in 2012, five new programs were created and six programs expanded.  This work was often done in a bipartisan manner.

So why should Governor Christie, with the national spotlight on him, talk about school choice? 

  • Education matters to voters—An American Federation for Children poll showed that improving K-12 education is a high priority for voters.  More than 8 out of 10 voters think education is the second-most important issue following the economy and reducing the budget deficit.
  • School choice has more support than ever before—The Wall Street journal called 2011 “the year of school choice,” and a recent Gallup poll indicated that support for vouchers has jumped a whopping 10 points in recent years, to its highest level of support ever.
  • States are acting to enact and expand school choice, and national politics should pay attention—With new programs in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Mississippi—and programs being oversubscribed in Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C., it’s time that both Democrats and Republicans pay attention to school choice.
Governor Christie has the chance to speak to the nation on what matters to him—and what matters to voters.  School choice works. It’s important to voters.  It’s time for the nation to united on education policy—and we can do that by empowering families with educational options.

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

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