The Plan That School-Choice Advocates Want for NJ
This week has been proclaimed "School Choice Week" in New Jersey in order to focus on support for alternatives to public schools, including charter, independent and private schools.
School-choice organizer Steven Looney says the event focuses the spotlight on the concept of allowing parents educational alternatives to public school. "It is part of a national effort to promote the consideration of school choice policy."
Looney organizes for Excellent Education for Everyone, which he described as a nonprofit, nonpartisan education choice advocacy group in New Jersey.
The school choices that they advocate for might include education savings accounts and the Opportunities Scholarship Act, which would provide public funding to parents who chose to enroll their children in private schools.
"It would be in effect a scholarship, tax-exempt, that would be provided through a payment mechanism, where a parent would choose from approved uses to allocate funds to, let's say, supplemental math training or English as a second language training that a student is not getting or not getting to their satisfaction in the schools that they are in. And if they did not use it, that money could be available for a college education. It could be built up."
But Looney says the effort has stalled in Trenton.
"That is a shame, because it was very limited. The governor had attempted to include a very small trial in his budget for two years. That did not occur. That legislation is still before the legislature, but it has currently not a lot of momentum."
Looney says there is push back from some strong opponents, including the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union, and others.
The NJEA has called the title of the bill "misleading" and says it would drain a billion dollars from struggling urban school districts to benefit students already enrolled in private schools.
Critics of private school-choice efforts also point out that private schools are not subjected to the all same standards and regulations as public schools.