This is a clear assault on NJ public schools, which are recognized as among the best in the nation. Parents, students, educators and all those committed to keeping our public schools strong and equitable need to oppose this harmful bill. Let's make sure New Jersey stays voucher-free.These internecine scrimmages cast the issues as far more dichotomous than they really are. The church/state thing is troubling. The argument against using private funds for private schools is silly. (Come on. What about, say, health care? What about railroads? It’s positively American to combine the two.) New features of the bill, meant to facilitate passage, would mandate that the vouchers only be awarded in areas represented by legislators who support the bill, which is pretty bizarre. (Should poor parents move to neighborhoods where their representatives aren’t dependent on NJEA contributions?)
This is what the voucher bill has going for it (and I remain agnostic about its value): the “fierce urgency of now,” that resonant phrase penned by Martin Luther King and used to great effect by President Obama. It’s about a child right now in, say, a 7th grade class in Morgan Village Middle School in Camden City, where 83.7% of his or her classmates fail the ASK7 in Math and 84.2% fail the ASK7 in Language Arts. Tell that kid right now that, as Lauren Hill has it, “NJ public schools are the best in the nation.” Tell that child and his or her parents right now, as Steve Baker of the NJEA says, that “pulling resources, pulling students and pulling support for public education is not the way to strengthen those schools.”
It’s all well and good for Opportunity Scholarship Bill opponents to avow their general support for public schools and their fear that private vouchers will undermine that funding because voucher recipients will pull cost per pupil, or some percentage of it, along with them. But it’s a philosophical argument, an abstract construct, moralistic hair-splitting, meaningless babel to that kid and those parents stuck in a chronically failing middle school in Camden (or Trenton or Newark or Asbury Park). There’s no fierceness, no urgency, no now. That’s what that kid in that 7th grade class needs, and that’s what voucher opponents must address if they’re to win any points in this game.