Friday, September 7, 2012

New Calls in New Jersey for School Choice Options

This week, an education task force on education in New Jersey recommended implementing major education reforms backed by Gov. Chris Christie, including using public money to send some students to private schools. 

The Education Transformation Task Force, convened by the governor a year ago, called for 428 regulatory changes and 46 legislative changes.  Included in the recommendations are implementing a scholarship tax credit program—which would allow children from low-income families living in certain cities to attend the private school of their parents’ choice—and end some limits on charter schools in the state.

The report specifically noted how children from low-income families need a quality education:

We must concede that the world deals tragically bad hands to many children — burdening them with poverty, challenging home and community environments, and more — and that overcoming those challenges is extraordinarily difficult. At the same time, progress depends on our belief that talented educators and effective schools can make a profoundly significant difference in helping children achieve despite the challenges imposed by circumstances beyond their control.

But not everybody was happy with the report. 

Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association—that’s the same organization whose executive director said “life isn’t always fair” while arguing against giving expanded educational options to students trapped in failing schools—said the report pushes to privatize public schools.  That’s an argument we’ve heard before.

But the Education Transformation Task Force’s report is not the only call for private school choice this week in the Garden State.

The Courier Post praised the state’s interdistrict public school choice and called for creating private school choice in the state as well in an editorial published this week:

Nonetheless, [interdistrict public school choice] can mean everything in creating a better future for individual boys and girls across our state. It helps kids who desperately want to get out of a failing and/or dangerous school. Trapping them and sentencing them to a life deprived of quality education all in the name of maintaining an educational status quo based solely on geography is wrong. It’s one of the most maddening things about our state — we pour billions of extra dollars from Trenton into our most deprived schools, yet largely do nothing to see that those schools improve as they should. We accept that they continue to fail kids.

The editorial continues:

We believe throwing out multiple lifelines — be they public school choice, school vouchers, magnet and charter schools and simultaneously fixing the public schools — is the right path, the one that does best for kids, which is what the goal must always be.

Now it’s time for officials to read the news and this state report.  Because New Jersey kids don’t have time to wait.

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

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