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Time for NJ Opportunity Scholarship Act is NOW

By Christy Davis Jackson
President E3, Excellent Education for Everyone

The NJ Spotlight Opinion Piece “Voucher Bills Fall Prey to False Advertising and Small Thinking” is a subjective commentary by Mr. MacInnes which mischaracterizes both the intent of the Opportunity Scholarship Act and the urgency of the need for OSA.

As a mother living in the City of the Township of Orange , with a young son of school age, I am outraged that another generation of children from my community is a prisoner of chronically failing schools. Our urban children have no access to the opportunities afforded to many of the s uburban counterparts, to attend a school that will prepare them to go to college, or get meaningful employment that will enable them to support their families, and contribute to our communities. While I am privileged to be a middle class parent who can afford to send my son to an independent school of our choice, it is a significant economic challenge to do so in New Jersey .

Mr MacInnes’ comments are an intellectualized response to a serious effort on behalf of honorable and passionate people in New Jersey to solve an educational crisis in our urban communities. I take issue with Mr. Mac Innes’ characterization of these good people as “not motivated primarily by the desire to help the poorest kids in the poorest districts”. It is erroneous to suggest that OSA scholarships, in either legislative form, are about funding private schools. OSA provides scholarships to participating out of district public schools, and religious and independent schools in or out of district. To say that OSA doesn’t target the poor because the median income is 2.5 times the Federal poverty level, when NJ has one of he highest costs of living in the country is decidedly misleading. To suggest that family of five with an income of $67,000 can not be considered poor enough in NJ to participate in the Opportunity Scholarship Act also flies in the face of the fact that in New Jersey the cost to educate one child in the chronically failing public school system is $24,000 – $30,000 per child, and is equal to far more than half of that family’s pre tax income.

The day to day administrative details of OSA will be determined as a result of the final bill that is passed, which will be refined and tested along with the educational program. The OSA’s intention is to do something dramatic now to save as many children as possible from the cycle of failure in failing schools, while the legislature, Governor, NJEA, and interest groups are negotiating long term education reform focused on the teacher, and school administrators.

OSA is an immediate education reform program funded initially by corporate tax credits. It creates opportunities for children in chronically failing schools in urban communities to fill the available seats in any eligible, and participating school that meet all federal and state educational mandates. While we all admit there are not enough non-public school seats available to absorb all of the eligible children, if successful OSA can drive the creation of new schools based on current educational best practices, and drive the public school system to be more competitive, realigning their business practices, and refining their educational mission. We can’t keep throwing good money after bad and continue to expect different results.

Now is the time for OSA. Now is not the time to divide the discussion along party or legislative body lines. Now is not the time to debate how close to the poverty line is poor enough. Now is not the time to ignore the civil rights issue inherent in the discrepancies between the urban and suburban public education experience. Now is the time to do something decisive and immediate to stem the tide of failure in our urban school districts, and provide hope for this generation of urban children in New Jersey .

We, the parents and community members of the urban districts where the Opportunity Scholarship Act will be implemented have experienced the continued failure of urban public education to serve our children, and we believe in OSA.

It time for scholarships for our children NOW. Vote for OSA by texting OSANOW to 99000 today.