"I believe it is not about choice, it is not about reform, it is about turning our backs to public education," Buono said.Taking the side of the individual student, Senator Ray Lesniak, a primary sponsor of the bill, said,
You don’t fail to save one (student) because you can’t save them all.Part of this moral dilemma rests on NJ's reputation as a system that generally performs well, at least for students in relatively well-to-do districts. So some of the rhetoric probes whether NJ’s significant cadre of great schools compensates for the presence of a smaller cohort of failing ones. Again, Senator Buono:
"We have 2,485 schools and the governor talks about 200 failing schools," Buono said. "I don't think that's such a bad percentage."Taking the opposite view, here’s Martin Perez of the Latino Leadership Alliance, as quoted in The Record:
We have two education systems. One of them is excellent and we are proud of it. … But we have also some of the worst schools in the nation.Proponents of the greater good are offended by the prospect of redirected student aid, loss of higher-achieving kids with empowered parents, and the lack of accountability to the State on the part of religious and private schools. Proponents of vouchers (or, in a different context, public charters) point to the opportunity to immediately improve the education of poor children trapped in chronically failing schools, arguing that we’re better off saving who we can. (It’s unclear how the money works out for taxpayers. Parochial schools spend far less per pupil and public districts would get to pocket the difference, though the tax credits carry their own burden. Depends upon whom you ask.)
Seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charter schools remained in operation, and remained low-performing, five years later, compared with 80 percent of district schools.If the Fordham study is correct, families in Camden and Plainfield and Trenton would be unwise to count on the state coming up with better schools. Minus a couple of bright spots, we haven’t managed to improve those districts for decades despite wads of extra cash. So do we give some children a ticket out right now and leave the rest behind, with a wispy hope that competition provides the jolt needed for meaningful improvement among failing schools? Or do we sentence all children in those 13 districts to continued attendance in bad schools because it’s unfair to save some without saving all?
Few low-performing schools in either sector—barely 1 percent—managed to dramatically improve their academic performance over this five-year period, and fewer than 10 percent made even moderate gains. Charter schools were not statistically more or less likely to turn around than their district peers.