I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I Take a Day Off On Vouchers

Why should I do battle yet again with Tom Moran and the Star-Ledger editorial page? So many others are knocking down today's ridiculous piece cheering on vouchers that I'm taking the day off!

Here's NJ Parents Against Christie's School Cuts:
The assertion that it's ok to hand public money to religious institutions for education as long as we let parents choose which ones is utterly wrongheaded. Why don't we just take money away from other government programs and let people give it to their houses of worship? Why stop at education? While we're at it, why don't we fund religion-based health care, public safety, and justice? Hey, as long as we let people choose which religion gets the money, it's all good, right?The fact that most kids in poor urban schools aren't succeeding doesn't justify a "try anything" approach. You seem to be saying, hey, why pay any attention to all the evidence that vouchers are ineffective and do more harm than good? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/01/school-vouchers-education-reform_n_843861.html) We have to do something, and this is something, so let's do it! And if this doesn't work, maybe we can try handing out lucky horseshoes!You try to reassure readers with, "This is a small pilot program that will affect about 5,000 students in a public school system of nearly 1.4 million." But you know damn well - or you should - that that's not how this program was originally conceived. It was intended to be much larger and was scaled down because of fierce opposition. Voucher proponents have every intention of expanding this "experiment," with the ultimate goal of making it statewide and available to all, regardless of need. To present it as a tiny program is utterly disingenuous.
And SOSNJ (just a taste - go read the whole thing):
To: Star Ledger Editorial Board

You need to check your facts.

1) The vast majority of NJ residents oppose vouchers, including communities of color. Quinnipiac found that NJ residents opposed taxpayer funded vouchers by 56 to 39 percent and opposition among African Americans and urban residents was even stronger (April 2011). This is not a teacher's union issue -- it's about the legislature reflecting the will of the voters!

2) Your analysis of the cost of the Opportunity Scholarship is completely wrong. The public schools would lose not only the amount of the voucher (between $8,000 and $11,000) for every student who leaves a public school, they also would lose the funds that would pay for vouchers for students already attending private schools. The hit would be about $16,000 for Camden, hardly an insignificant amount.

It is critical to understand that there are no real cost reductions when two to three students leave a classroom of 24, but the reduction in funding ($48,000 if three children leave) would mean the elimination of a teacher, so the vast majority of students would be that much worse off.
And the inimitable Marie Corfield (at Blue Jersey):
I was very disappointed to start my New Year off this morning by reading a fact-less and biased op-ed piece in The Star Ledger about the Voucher Bill. It had already lit up the Twitter and Facebook feeds long before I had my first cup of coffee, with Save Our Schools NJ and NJParents1 posting fact-filled responses
It is reprehensible and irresponsible for the state's largest newspaper to publish such a work of fiction. Anyone could do a quick Google search to find plenty of evidence to refute their claim that vouchers offer 'a lifeline for poor kids'. I do hope Politifact New Jersey does their homework on this one.

This is not a Democrat vs. Republican or state vs. NJEA issue. This is an issue of our government offering false hope to families of struggling students, financial aid to struggling private and parochial schools, and tax breaks to big corporations. This program that has been tried in various cities around the country for 20 years withno measurable success does nothing to address the crushing effects of poverty on a child's ability to learn. And according to both the US Census Bureau and the NJDOE, poverty, or lack thereof, is a major factor in a child's success in school. 
If Trenton is serious about helping struggling students, why not let corporations give those tax breaks to programs that will help the poor live decent lives including affordable health insurance, housing, jobs, and ESL classes? Or how about giving that money directly to the school districts not only to invest in measures that have been proven to work such smaller class sizes, rich, deep curriculums, and strong half day pre-K and full day kindergarten programs, but to help them buy much needed materials and fix broken down, dilapidated buildings? 
Newspapers are supposed to uncover the truth, not perpetuate lies. The Star Ledgercan and should do better 
As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."
Yeah, what they said!

If every blogging day in 2012 is going to be this easy, I'm in for a great year...


Marie said...

JJ, you deserve a day off! ~ Marie

Teacher Mom said...

The comments on the SL page were great today. Very difficult to find people who actually supported the idea. I say it all the time, "Yeah what they said."