Tag Archive: Vouchers

Burden of Reformy Proof

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

I’ll keep this short, as I can’t believe I actually have to write this down:

I see a lot of arguments in social media and blogs and editorial pages and elsewhere along these lines:

“American education is a disaster! We must do something! And you can’t prove that my proposed reforms won’t work!”

This argument makes no sense for at least three reasons:

Blue Jersey’s Interview with Frank Pallone

I travelled to Congressman Frank Pallone’s Long Branch office this morning to speak to him about his campaign for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination and his position of the issues of the day.

I was pleased that his response to my first question stressed his work on the environment, specifically New Jersey’s waterways. Pallone is strong on the environment, and like his counterpart Rush Holt (and unlike Cory Booker), unequivocally opposes dangerous hydraulic fracturing.

In addition to the environment, we talked about how he plans to work around the stalemate in Washington, health care, income disparity, education, and the emerging surveillance state.

Disclosure: I’m a Holt supporter and have volunteered for his campaign. But if Pallone beats Booker, I’ll be ecstatic

Philadelphia Inquirer Jumps on the Booker Bandwagon

Yesterday, I wrote about the New York Times’ endorsement of Cory Booker in the upcoming Democratic Senate Primary. The other major Jersey-centric out-of-state newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, also endorsed Booker today.

While the Times endorsement mistakenly implies that Booker will be able to leverage his celebrity status to get things done in Washington, the Inquirer article is a bit more reasoned, but their editors’ premises are also dubious.

The Inky’s editors summarize many of Booker’s accomplishments, and on those, the Newark mayor deserves the accolades they gave him. But then, the article continues, “Booker is a moderate who supports school vouchers as well as same-sex marriage.” Yet, the paper (partially owned by education profiteer George Norcross III, a fact that should have been disclosed in the editorial) fails to mention any reason why school vouchers are supposed to be a good thing. And as far as marriage equality is concerned, every Democrat on the ticket supports it, and of the candidates running for the Senate spot, none has done more for marriage equality than the presumptive last-place finisher Sheila Oliver.

The paper gives its requisite compliments to the other three candidates. In describing Rush Holt, they call him “a thoughtful champion of public schools.” Succumbing to the language of the Right, they also describe Holt as a champion of “entitlement programs,” rather than more accurately touting his concern for the poor and middle class.

Like the Times, the corporate ownership of the Inquirer seems to have infiltrated the heretofore independent editorial boards. In both cases, the editors were too timid to go out on a limb and endorse one of the underdogs to whom they gave faint praise. And while Booker would be a good U.S. Senator for New Jersey, Rush Holt and Frank Pallone are more experienced, better qualified and ready to fill Frank Lautenberg’s shoes.

NJ’s New “Go Along To Get Along” Budget

In the midst of an election cycle, this year’s budget process has been the Governor and Legislature making nice with each other. Both sides are averse to cutting programs popular with the general public, introducing new controversial issues, and engaging in protracted confrontations. We can remember past years when debate, anger and threats ruled. This year the budget was negotiated behind closed doors with the public and the press uninformed about the process. The budget bill (A4200) which is about to be passed in a few days is only now available in an abbreviated form on the Legislature’s main website page.

Our budget system is somewhat perverse. The Governor starts out with what he wants in the budget and presents it to the Legislature. The Legislature then adds items it wants, and deletes items it does not want. Finally, the Governor can line-item veto anything he dislikes but he can not add back in expenses. Of course there are exceptions and subterfuges, but that is how it is supposed to work.

The governor has the upper hand and routinely gets about 90% or more of what he or she wants, but the Legislature can negotiate to appropriate or not appropriate funds for specific items. Nonetheless, Mark Magyar points out today, “As expected, the final budget bill was little changed from the spending plan Christie laid out four months ago.” (Appropriations net changes of $56 million in a $32.9 billion budget.)

The Legislature removed from the Governor’s budget $2 million for the Opportunity Scholarship Act program (school vouchers).

Some of the Legislature’s additions to the budget include  $35 million for higher education reorganization; $7.4 million for school districts, rolling back an administration plan to make districts pay more for capital borrowing; and $13.2 million for community providers who care for the mentally disabled.

An item not in the budget is additional funding for pre-school programs. Likewise there are no monies for Planned Parenthood, which will be addressed in separate legislation. There is no funding for Christie’s tax cut plan that he promoted so hard. Nor is there any consideration for a millionaire’s tax surcharge. (Also the $24 million needed for the Special Elections is not included.)

So in the end harmony is preserved. There is nothing wrong per se with accommodation, but in a period of economic upheaval, environmental concerns, high unemployment, pen/ben indebtedness, unresolved social issues, high property taxes, fraying infrastructure, growing poverty, and Sandy recovery efforts, one might yearn for a more robust public discussion of how we set our priorities and spend our money.

Who’s Chris Christie doing robocalls for now?

So, Chris Christie’s done a robocall for a candidate for Washington D.C. Council named Patrick Mara. But, who’s Patrick Mara?

1) Wrong on education: D.C. Board of Ed member. His priorities:

• Unfettered progress of Ed Reform as enacted by Mayor Fenty in 2007

• Expanding the Tuition Assistance Grant Program (vouchers)

Nice. Still loyal to the thoroughly discredited Michelle Rhee AND a voucher man. In D.C. 52% of voucher kids go to Catholic schools. Fits right in with Christie’s policy of promoting school privatization while screwing with public education, built on faulty factoids, faked results and high-priced ed ‘reform’ agitprop.

2) Cough cough, here’s your salad: Opposes expanding the city’s sick-leave law to include restaurant tip workers. Lovely.

3) Patrick Mara is a Republican: That’s the name of an oppo-website devoted to reminding the (overwhelmingly Democratic) D.C. electorate that socially moderate (for a Republican) Mara was a delegate for Romney, donated heavily to Romney, and McCain, and George W. Bush. He’s also prolific on eBay (including hawking a 2004 Christmas card from Bush).

4) Cheapskate to struggling workers: Opposes raising D.C.’s $8.25/hr minimum wage. Gee whiz, same values as Christie.

5) Santorum, Akin, Mara (then, no): Got donation from Tea Party PAC Freedom’s Defense Fund (a power behind Rick “Google me” Santorum and Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin) but had to return it when he found out they were anti-D.C. statehood, and you can’t get nowhere in D.C. against statehood.

So, is there any risk to Christie for supporting Mara? Nope. Mara’s liked by a wider-than-usual spectrum, including the local Chamber of Commerce (biz groups love him), Fraternal Order of Police, Realtors Assn. and the godalmighty Washington Post. And local Sierra Club (not that Sierra always has its head screwed on straight – ya dig?). He’s a likable Republican, a District novelty. Well-funded. Nice guy who doesn’t go negative. And a Republican who supports marriage equality, and many in the gay community treasure their GOP supporters of equality, particularly if straight (as Mara is).

Behind everything Chris Christie does is self-promotion. Christie lends his swagger and national GOP street cred to Mara and helps Mara grab a Council seat (and woo hoo an at large seat at that) in a city with 12-1 Democrats over Republicans? That makes him look like a necessary dude to maybe a bigger chunk of 2016 primary-watcher Republicans, and maybe, just maybe lets him tap the GayTM … maybe just a trickle. Either way, Christie doesn’t lose backing Mara.

National School Choice Group Finds Voucher Allies In New Brunswick; Looking For Spot On Board Of Ed

Earlier, I inadvertently published this under my own byline for a few minutes, while I was trying to help Mother Crusader with formatting and code. My bad. It’s all her work. This is about today’s New Brunswick school election. Promoted by Rosi

I’m staying off this bandwagon…

Back in March Diane Ravitch posted about Rutgers student activist Stephanie Rivera’s candidacy for the New Brunswick school board, and asked readers to donate to her campaign. Diane reposted Stephanie’s request for help, which talked a lot about the “political machine” in New Brunswick and how for the last 20 years the board has been appointed by the mayor.

Election Day is April 16, and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. We’ll be going up against the political establishment of New Brunswick, which until now has been appointing the Board of Education and depriving New Brunswick youth and the community of the justice and quality education they deserve. For the past 20 YEARS, board members have been appointed by the same guy: New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill. And unbelievably, this is the first year in New Brunswick’s HISTORY that the Board of Education is ELECTED.

New Brunswick is right across the Raritan river from me, and I know Stephanie, but I stayed out of it and did not endorse her campaign, even after Save Our Schools NJ’s Julia Sass Rubin jumped in and endorsed Stephanie, too.


First, because my husband teaches in New Brunswick, so I generally try not to get involved in things there. And second, because I didn’t know her running mates.

But now I do, and MAN am I glad I stayed out of this one (well, until now obviously…).  Stephanie is great, and she has done some amazing things, and I am sure she will go on to be a fine educator and advocate, but her slate is a hot mess and she needs to dump these people.


“Simplistic Solutions to Complex Problems”

With the recent spate of scandals and sub-par performance from charter schools, I went back into my video archives and decided to re-post these brief remarks that were delivered by Senator Barbara Buono back in July, 2011. The venue was a fundraiser at a private home for Marie Corfield’s Assembly campaign. Buono’s words about Chris Christie’s approach to teachers and to education “reform” ring true today. She labels the reformers’ approach as a “simplistic solutions to complex problems.” Listen.

Anyone who cares about education in New Jersey should work to send Buono to Drumthwacket and Corfield to the State House.

QoTD Chris Christie: Vouchers

Quote of the Day was pulled from Star-Ledger reporter Jenna Portnoy’s Twitter feed, and retweeted by Blue Jersey alum DSWright (hat/tip) and then @BlueJersey:

The state controls Newark public schools and Newark is going to court to get control back. Jersey City, the first school system in New Jersey to come under state control, in 1989, retains the label of “failing school system”. The state also controls Paterson schools – it was at a ‘Town Hall’ there that a man shouted ‘fix the schools’ and Christie replied by addressing that grown man as “Boy”. Paterson is also suing to regain local control. And now Camden schools, the first takeover initiated by Christie, as he moves toward re-election and the presidential run he’s hinted he wants beyond it, and will cost a fortune. Four urban districts – easy to see what they have in common, Jersey Jazzman has pointed out.

At the same time, many religious-based and private schools are struggling financially. What better way to combine the aim of shoring them up with public money, particularly when you can help underwrite places that share your ‘conservative moral values,’ including “upholding the sanctity of traditional marriage”.

The schools where the Christies and Norcrosses send their kids? They’re doing fine, they always will. But the fate, say, of the kind of Catholic school you might have come up through is more complicated.

But almost without exception most of the kinds of complications struggling religious and private schools are faced with can be ameliorated by the chunks of public cash vouchers would mean. And the best place to start that engine up? Declare whole vast school districts disaster zones, and let privatizing tycoons and poorly-researched do-gooders have at those schools, those kids. All of it with a “moral compass” that does not take into account nor seek to address the poverty and danger some of those children face, nor their nutition, nor their parents’ efforts to stay healthy or earn a living wage to support them.

These are not Chris Christie’s concerns, these aren’t his voters – either in 2013 or 2016. But when you hear him talking vouchers – never forget it isn’t your kids’ future he’s concerned with. It’s his.  

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?