If you are familiar with New Jersey's public schools, you probably know two things about them: they are costly and they are very good. While there are some school districts in the urban regions that are not meeting their burden to educate their students as best as possible, most of New Jersey's schools are excellent. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact. Test scores are available and New Jersey ranks high. In some case, New Jersey has the highest scores in the nation. Take AP exams. New Jersey students obtain the highest grades in the nation. Take a look at the video linked to the end of this blog if you don't believe me.
Despite all the good grades New Jersey's public school districts get, New Jersey's Governor is trying to dismantle the entire system. Governor Chris Christie is pushing for tax dollars that would go to public schools to be utilized for private schools. This means that the money public schools now get will be less. The legislation, the Opportunity Scholarship Act (S1872 http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/S2000/1872_S2.HTM ), would allow corporations a tax credit to sponsor scholarships for those students in 13 pilot districts to attend private schools. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) website states several reasons why this is not a good idea. One interesting reason would be the private schools are not necessarily the best schools. Private school teachers do not have to be certified as do public school teachers. Additionally, some of the students are already attending private school. The legislation would not always be helping the students at the "failing' schools.
Again, we are left with the Governor trying to change the public school system by defunding it, slowly. View the website at http://www.njea.org/news/2011-01-20/voucher-bill-approval-a-travesty-says-njea.
It is no secret Governor Christie has called attention to the high cost of New Jersey's public school system. Last spring, he called on New Jersey residents to defeat their local school board's budget. Without examining each district on its own merits, the Governor told New Jersey voters to vote down the budgets. According to New Jersey law, when a school budget is defeated at the polls, it is reviewed by the municipality's governing body. The local elected officials then can make changes or keep the budget as presented by the school board.
The end result is typically the local politicians recommend changes and lower the total amount of each budget. While this can be a good thing in cases where the school board is overzealous in its reach, typically the school boards had already tightened the budget as much as possible without sacrificing education.
Last year, the voters overwhelming listened to Governor Christie, and school budgets were defeated across New Jersey. Governor Christie was relentless against the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the teachers' union. This battle appeared to be a holdover from the prior year's gubernatorial election, where then candidate Christie was not endorsed by the NJEA. The results were thousands of teacher layoffs and cut programs.
With a little over two months to go before the school board elections are held on April 27, 2011, Governor Christie is waging a different battle. And if the new legislation is passed, the children's education will suffer. So as not to be redundant, I offer the attached video. It says it all.