Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Families in Camden, New Jersey Lead the Fight for Educational Options

Three mothers of Camden students in New Jersey are suing the state for not providing children with a quality education as required by the state constitution.  And if precedence means anything in the New Jersey Courts, these mothers have a good shot.  Thirty-two years ago, Raymond Abbott, a Camden student and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging inadequate funding for schools in impoverished cities, led the charge in what resulted in an overhaul of how the state funds public schools.

So these moms have some good history behind them—and, unfortunately, some sobering statistics about Camden Public Schools:

  • 23 of 26 public schools in Camden are failing
  • Camden schools make up one-third of the poorest-performing public schools 5 percent of schools in New Jersey
  • Less than 1 percent of students who take the SATs score high enough to meet college standards
 While New Jersey has charter schools and public school choice, these mothers are asking the state education commissioner to find better-performing schools for their children—and the 15,000 students in Camden—immediately.

Several groups supporting the suit—Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), the Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey, and the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey—have the answer:  a scholarship tax credit program.  These organizations are also strong supporters of the Opportunity Scholarship Act.

The OSA has strong bipartisan support and the backing of Governor Chris Christie.  Despite this strong support, the bill is not yet law because of politics as usual: Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will not let the bill come to a vote.

It’s time the New Jersey Education Commissioner, Speaker Oliver, and other opponents of immediate educational options know this: Parents Know Best.  So let’s listen to these Camden mothers.

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

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