Tag Archive: OSA

The Real Reason For Vouchers

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

NJ Governor Chris Christie, 3/19/13:

Gov. Chris Christie today picked up the endorsement of Orthodox Jewish education, community and business leaders, after bringing his small government message to a retirement community down the road.

At Yeshiva Toras Aron, a religious school for boys, Christie said his proposal for private school vouchers would ensure it is “the education of the parents’ choice, regardless of their economic situation, that governs how their children are educated.”

Invoking his epic battles with the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, Christie said “special interests” have stood in the way of the Opportunity Scholarship Act.

Christie accepted the endorsement of three sectors comprising the Orthodox community including Igud, which oversees more than 30 Lakewood yeshivas; the Vaad, a coalition of rabbis, businessmen and town leaders and Mayor Albert Akerman.


“In the town of Lakewood, there is no question what the No. 1 priority of everyone in the orthodox community is, there is one priority and that is education,” said Rabbi Shlomo Kanarek, who heads the Igud and called Christie “a longtime friend.”

In addition to financial support for private education, Christie shares what speakers called the moral values of the community including “upholding the sanctity of traditional marriage,” said Vadd member Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg.

Lakewood Mayor Albert Akerman noted Ocean County Chairman George Gilmore promised the county GOP would deliver Christie 100,000 votes this year, surpassing the 71,000 plurality four years ago. [emphasis mine]

Golly, do you think that maybe the Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community will benefit disproportionately from vouchers?

Based on the Census ACS data from a few years back, there were over 17,000 privately schooled students in Lakewood, and OVER 10,400 OF THOSE STUDENTS WERE IN FAMILIES THAT REPORTED THEMSELVES AS BEING BELOW THE 250% POVERTY-INCOME THRESHOLD!

Recall that Newark had about 2,000 low income private school enrolled children.

Orange/East Orange combined have under 900.

All of the cities around Asbury Park combined about 400 (meaning that Asbury Park alone is likely much less).

Camden about 1,300

Elizabeth about 1,000

The entire area (several towns/districts) around Perth Amboy about 1,000 (meaning that Perth Amboy is likely only a fraction of that amount)

And again, Lakewood, over 10,000! (and Passaic, another significant amount)

In other words, all of the other locations combined do not have the sum total of low income private school enrolled children that Lakewood has. Lakewood would likely be the epicenter of NJOSA scholarship distribution. I noted in my first post on this topic that if the average scholarship amounts were as proposed, the Lakewood Yeshiva schools would stand to take in as much as $67 million per year in these indirect taxpayer subsidies.

That’s $67 million a year in taxpayer money so Yeshivas in Lakewood can teach the importance of “upholding the sanctity of traditional marriage.”

Vouchers in New Jersey are clearly not about “saving” children in “failing” schools. Vouchers are all about winning votes in conservative religious communities. Even the mayor of Lakewood says so. Why argue the point?

So what if I support vouchers to get votes in Lakewood? Wanna make something of it?

Tom Kean: America’s Most Confused Ex-Governor

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

Make it stop! Make it stop!

Q: There has been some criticism that it is bringing in more private interests and privatization of public schools.

A [Tom Kean, former NJ Governor]: I have never been for private school vouchers. I have always felt public money should be in public schools, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have good charter schools, which are public schools, or that you shouldn’t have good public school choice.

It doesn’t mean that money doesn’t matter, but it needs to be targeted money and targeted reform. More money into a failing system is just a more expensive failing system. I used to call it educational child abuse, and I think Chris Cerf and the governor are open to what needs to be done.

Q: But Christie is pressing ahead with private school voucher program, at least through a proposed pilot. Your son, state Sen. Thomas Kean Jr., is behind it, too.

A: I think pilots are fine. I have never been for private school vouchers, but I think small experiments to see if something works, it is hard to be against that. I am very pragmatic on education these days. It’s not ideology; it’s what works, what’s going to help the African-American or Hispanic kids in the middle of Newark or Paterson or Camden and feels trapped in a system that doesn’t work. [emphasis mine]

See, Tom Kean is against school vouchers! Except for when he is for them! You know, just to see if they work! But Kean’s still against them regardless! Except maybe he’s not… it’s confusing…

By the way, Governor: a “pilot program” for vouchers would pretty much be useless in terms of demonstrating anything about whether a large-scale program would work. But I think we all know that’s really not what the NJ voucher bills have been about, don’t we? (Hint: Why do the OSA bills always include Lakewood?)

This is the intellectual rigor I suppose we can expect from JerseyCAN.

JerseyCAN Board of Directors

ADDING: More of the wisdom of Tom Kean:

Q: What about those saying this is an issue of poverty, and we need to get to the root causes?

A: To me, that’s an excuse. I have headed the national committee against teen pregnancy for years — one of the causes, and yes, we have to get at that. We do have to work at the various causes, no question about that, but to say that people are poor and therefore they can’t learn, that’s an excuse I’ve never accepted.

So, poverty is “an excuse” – but it’s still “one of the causes” of differing educational outcomes. See, poverty is a real factor in education – but the best thing to do is ignore it.

Give the man credit: it’s not easy to contradict yourself within a few sentences…

School Privatization Efforts Continue in NJ

The deceptively-named school privatization group American Federation for Children is attempting to link the Chicago Teachers Union strike to what they claim is public support for school vouchers. That’s a long walk, considering that most Americans don’t want their tax dollars to pay for private and religious schools. AFC claims that their commissioned polling shows a whopping 85% of New Jerseyans support vouchers. If that figure seems weird, it is – AFC’s claims are wildly inconsistent with the findings of an arguably much more neutral and reputable polling operation – Quinnipiac University – which consistently finds that a majority of New Jerseyans actually oppose vouchers. It’s not surprising, since AFC is a “trustee” level supporter of the now largely toxic conservative bill mill ALEC, and is essentially in the same business of advancing prefab legislation ultimately designed to benefit private interests – whether they’re selling firearms or school supplies, facts and the public good be damned.

And so even more bizarre is the idea of making Chicago teachers into villains. That is, unless you’re the American Federation for Children, whose mission is innately hostile toward teacher unions; any opportunity in which public school teachers can be made into faceless bad guys is, for these folks, an irresistible messaging opportunity.

Yet the major sticking point of this strike is a deeply flawed teacher evaluation plan designed to please  bureaucrats and testing company executives – one which will almost certainly denigrate the quality of public education in Chicago, not improve it. This strike is not about compensation or benefits – its about defending the craft of teaching from being measured and judged in inaccurate and inappropriate ways. These striking teachers are defending their right to do their best, by not having their entire professional existence subjected to evaluation based on information not intended for that purpose, and not even useful for it.

This Monday in Haddonfield, Governor Christie stated his continued support for NJ’s own zombie charter legislation, the Opportunity Scholarship Act. But he bemoaned what he implied was an unwillingness among NJ legislators to move the legislation.

Maybe it’s not unwillingness, but instead, wisdom – scratch even slightly below the surface of statistical “evidence” offered by voucher proponents and one finds that their arguments are not borne out by any reasonable standard. Here is a particularly eloquent description of why, exactly, seemingly good-news studies like one recently published by the Brookings Institute and lauded by privatizers do not, in fact, measure anything at all.  

Teachers on the Edge of Poverty

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

Bruce Baker has an important post up about the Opportunity Scholarship Act – New Jersey’s voucher bill. Basically, the way the bill is now written, it would be little more than a massive giveaway of tax funds to yeshivas in Lakewood and, to a lesser degree, Passaic; somewhere on the order of $67 million. All voucher supporters should have to answer to Bruce’s arguments here.

But his post also struck me for this:

NJOSA would provide scholarships to children in families below the 250% income threshold for poverty. The text of the bill indicates that eligible children are those either attending a chronically failing school in one of the districts above or eligible to enroll in such school in the following year (which would seem to include any child within the attendance boundaries of these districts even if presently already enrolled in private schools).

Here’s the language of the bill on eligibility:

“Low-income child” means a child from a household with an income that does not exceed 2.50 times the official federal poverty threshold for the calendar year preceding the school year for which an educational scholarship is to be distributed.

What does that translate into for a dollar amount? Well, the poverty level for a family of four in the contiguous 48 states is $22,350. 250% of that is $55, 875.

You Can Do Better, Mr. Pepper

“We Can Do Better New Jersey” is a shadow organization that promotes school vouchers. Its web site gives no information about who funds it, nor does it list any of its principals. It refers to its founders as “various educational and philanthropic groups and individuals.”

There’s little doubt that the dollars behind this group come from those for-profit businesses that will benefit from the passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act and the funneling of taxpayer money to their coffers.

Like many advocacy groups, “We Can Do Better New Jersey” also has a Facebook page. It appears to be run by one Dominic Pepper. But it is clear that he is not interested in any debate on vouchers based on factual discussions.

Recently, I posted my opinion on WCDBNJ’s Facebook page (see below). Within minutes, my post was removed and I was permanently banned from the group. Several other pro-education advocates posted similar messages and were also banned within minutes.

Blue Jersey Focus – José Delgado

Camden is a city in trouble and many politicians from Governor Christie to Mayor Redd to Senator Norcross and Assemblymen Wilson and Fuentes are getting a lot of press coverage. No doubt, there are a lot of bad people who are taking advantage of the city’s inbred poverty and the Governor’s cutbacks in public safety and education to the detriment of the law-abiding and struggling residents of that city. But the silver lining is that there are also residents who are quietly working below the radar to incrementally improve the situation there.

One such citizen is José Delgado, a retired investigator for the public defender and former long-time member of the Camden Board of Education. I spoke with Delgado this afternoon about crime, education, and the hopes for Camden’s future.

Latino Action Network Opposes Opportunity Scholarship Act

promoted by Rosi

Last month, Governor Christie called on the New Jersey lawmakers to pass his version of education reform during the lame duck session of the legislature.  The governor listed four bills as crucial to his reform agenda.  Among those bills was the controversial ‘Opportunity Scholarship Act’ which would provide corporations a 100% tax credit for contributions made to a state run voucher program, which would then distribute the funds.  This legislation would divert from $360 million to over $1 billion in tax dollars away from the public education system to private and religious schools.  As a result of the governor’s announcement, voucher proponents have renewed their efforts to get this bill passed claiming that vouchers would help poor children in New Jersey.

The Latino Action Network opposes the publicly funded voucher bill because we see it as a big gimmick that benefits corporate interests that would do nothing to help poor children stuck in failing school districts.  Not one penny of corporate money would fund the scholarships established by this misguided legislation.

Latino Action Network Announces Opposition to Opportunity Scholarship Act

Latino Action Network Announces Opposition to Opportunity Scholarship Act

For Immediate Release: December 5, 2011

Christian Estevez, Chair, Education Committee – 973-418-7012

Daniel Santo Pietro, Chair, Public Policy Committee – 732-496-9628

The Latino Action Network [LAN] today announced its opposition to the Opportunity Scholarship Act because it would drain money away from public education and give it to corporate interests so it could be doled out to private schools.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Act is a big gimmick that benefits corporate interests that would do nothing to help poor children stuck in failing school districts,” said Christian Estevez, Executive Vice President of the Latino Action Network and Chair of the Education Committee.  “Not one penny of corporate money would fund the scholarships established by this misguided legislation. The state would take money from our public schools and hand it to the corporations, who would then claim corporate philanthropy with our tax dollars.”

Estevez concluded: “This is an educational gimmick of the worst sort. This legislation does nothing to address the core issues of housing and educational segregation. We pledge to work with legislators to address the real issues that hurt so many children of low and moderate-income families.”

Below is the official policy statement of the Latino Action Network with regards to the Opportunity Scholarship Act:

(More Below)

Hey, Gov. Christie, are these kids drug mules too?

Yellow school buses were stacked up and down West State Street as far as the eye could see. Looks like NJ Spotlight called it right, predicting that the vast majority at today’s pro-voucher rally at the State House steps were Catholic school students bused in for the day.

School-choice-rally-1.jpeg nj101.5.comI wonder. Do you think our pro-voucher, Catholic school parent Governor thinks these kids are drug mules too?

You remember this, right? Back from when Christie was gleefully building his national street cred as a bullyboy. Before he blamed that same reputation on the press. The Guv sure didn’t have any trouble calling public school kids drug mules for being the unwitting, cute little messengers of what their teachers and schools needed them to push. In his opinion.

This is big-time stuff, in case you mistook it for some kind of grassroots movement. Today’s rally was coordinated by a PR company called Jaffe Communications, who brag about the expensive-sounding advertising buys in targeted legislative districts, including billboards, bus advertising, and posters. To say nothing of the firm’s coordinated pitch of Op-Eds to news outlets.  

On Education: Where Do You Stand?

As KendalJames points out, OSA, on the legislature’s plate this month as a side dish to lame duck with gravy, sounds harmless. He tells it:

Opportunity! Scholarships! Action! All of these things sound awesome, and even moreso when you string them together – “Opportunity Scholarship Act” – it just rolls off the tongue, like “Madoff Investment Securities,” or “House Un-American Activities Committee.”

It’s the old thing its own track record tells us doesn’t work – vouchers – repackaged all shiny by clever people who hope you don’t read the research. Nevertheless, some influential non-electeds go big for it. And this week, rallies both against, and for, vouchers.

But where do you stand?

Somebody actually wants to know. Democratic State Chair Asm John Wisniewski wants to hear what you think about education. Honestly, I don’t know if the votes are already aligned for some of the ed ‘reform’ we’ve heard is coming in lame duck. History teaches me to be as wary of Democrats in this issue as the GOP (not Wiz). But if I’m being honest, I don’t remember anyone of his standing asking for this kind of input, either. It’s good.

I’m told responses are pouring in. Parents. Teachers. School Board members. Activists. Education experts. People without kids in the schools. What they’re writing about is broad – not just about charters, or vouchers, but suggestions on parent involvement, what kids are learning, etc.  Of course, the test for me will be whether how all this info will get out of the NJDSC HQ on West State Street and across the street to the legislators who will be voting. And of course, the degree to which they take it in. We’ll see.

Here’s Chairman John Wisniewski’s invitation to share you ideas on education. Want to tell him? (like Bertin already did). Hit Wiz up at: educationideas@njdems.org.

Dear Supporter,

As the debate over New Jersey’s education system continues across our state, your ideas and input are needed now, more than ever.

Recently, I hosted representatives of New Jersey’s education community for a roundtable discussion on the state of public education in New Jersey.

The event, held at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in New Brunswick, examined education initiatives and issues expected to be part of the upcoming legislative debate. Representatives of various constituencies involved in and/or affected by the state’s education policies, along with members of the general public were invited to participate in and observe the roundtable discussion.  You can see a short video featuring some of the discussion here.

Prior to the discussion, participants heard from Dr. David Driscoll, Chairman of the President’s National Assessment Governing Board, past president of the Council of Chief State School Officers and former Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts. Dr. Driscoll discussed his experience in Massachusetts when that state implemented its landmark education reform law.  You can see Dr. Driscoll’s remarks here.

What we need now is input from you! I am asking for your suggestions on what needs to be considered as we move forward in this debate over our children’s future. Submit your ideas to educationideas@njdems.org

We need to ensure this process isn’t about ideology, but rather about making education better and your feedback is crucial to crafting a plan that works. There are a variety of opinions and it’s essential that we bring everyone to the table in order to develop the best solutions.

Thank you for everything you do. I look forward to your suggestions.


Video from the Education Roundtable that inspired Wisniewski’s outreach efforts – below the fold.