Gov. Chris Christie's strong support of school vouchers today earned him the endorsement of Bishop Reginald Jackson, one of New Jersey's most influential black ministers.
Jackson, the executive director of the New Jersey Black Ministers Council and a Newark community leader, described himself as a Democrat and noted that he endorsed Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009 when Christie first ran.
But Jackson today said state Democratic lawmakers have disappointed him by refusing to pass the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a bill that would give children in low-performing urban schools a publicly funded scholarship to attend a private school or another public school instead.
State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), the Democratic candidate for governor this year, opposes the bill. Jackson called Buono a "wonderful, warm and genuine person," then launched a scathing critique on her party.
"A quality education is a civil right, and it is sad for me to see my party, which embraced the Civil Rights movement, now in New Jersey blocking low-income and minority children from escaping the slavery of failing schools," Jackson said at a Statehouse news conference, standing next to Christie and a group of black ministers from across the state. [emphasis mine]Pardon me for impolitely interrupting the right reverend's spasm of self-righteous indignation, but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that vouchers will help any children "escape the slavery of failing schools."
Vouchers are an especially bad idea in New Jersey: even if private schools were better than publics (they aren't), there simply aren't enough seats in private schools to serve children eligible for vouchers. And the children most likely to get vouchers under the Opportunity Scholarship Act are already in private schools, especially yeshivas in Lakewood, which would have received the vast majority of OSA money.
So why is Jackson abandoning the Democratic party and embracing a right-wing corporate tool like Christie over a policy that won't do anything for his supposed constituents? There is a reason - but you wouldn't know it from reading the accounts of the endorsement from the Star-Ledger, NJ 101.5, PolitickerNJ, WBGO, NJTV, WHYY, the Asbury Park Press, and the AP.
Reginald Jackson's wife is a professional voucher pusher:
Kudos, by the way, to Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record for reporting this critical part of the story. That the vast majority of the NJ press corps would leave out this crucial detail is, I'm afraid, typical.
Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), which has been devoting itself to the passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act, has just announced that it has a new President and CEO: Christy Davis Jackson, Esq. Ms. Davis Jackson will fill the shoes of the late Dan Gaby, E3’s much beloved chief executive.Ms. Davis Jackson served as Chief of Staff to Wynona Lipman (a former Essex County Senator), was Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s State Director, and managed Jon Corzine’s senatorial campaign. She is married to Reverend Reginald Jackson, who served on E3’s Board. Rev. Jackson has resigned to avoid any conflict with his wife’s new role.
But there's more to Jackson's endorsement of Christie than merely vouchers. Go back to 2011, when Jackson's Black Ministers Council sponsored a workshop on getting charter schools approved. Who was the guest of honor?
Back in these earlier days of the Christie administration, the BMC was all about getting their member churches in on the charter school gravy train; Jackson himself bragged how he had enough juice to get charters approved for his flock:Conference ScheduleWednesday, March 2nd(Focus on Education)8AM Registration9AM Opening Plenary9:15AM The Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, PresidingExecutive Director, BMCKeynote BreakfastThe Honorable Chris ChristieGovernor, State of New Jersey[...]Charter School Expansion Workshop(churches that would like to start charter schools)
Rev. Reginald Jackson said he was celebrating after all five charter schools proposed by the Black Ministers Council were approved. They include an East Orange school with single-gender classrooms and a high school offering online instruction and instrumental music classes for students in East Orange, Irvington and Newark. [emphasis mine]One of those charters was Regis Academy Charter School, which was going to be led by anti-gay marriage crusader Amir Khan. After a furious battle with the Cherry Hill community, which neither wanted nor needed the school, Khan's charter was eventually revoked - but not before Khan confessed what his charter was really all about:
Reginald Jackson and his fellow apostles know what school "reform" is really all about: getting a taste of that lovely, lovely public school money. It doesn't matter if it comes from vouchers, or from starting a charter school; all that counts is that public funds roll into the hands of folks who are doing it all "for the kids."
Jackson's endorsement of Chris Christie last week was just about the most cynical, political move one could imagine. This governor has ignored the School Funding Reform Act for four years running - a piece of legislation that was specifically designed to move state school funds to the poorest districts where it is needed most. Children in these districts are going to schools that are literally crumbling while Christie has delayed critical projects, even as he hands out huge tax gifts to corporate and wealthy interests (tax breaks that haven't helped New Jersey's economic malaise in the slightest).
No governor has been worse for poor and minority children and their families than Chris Christie. But Reginald Jackson doesn't care, because school privatization is good for him and his family; that's the real reason for his endorsement.
Remember when Chris Christie said he didn't know Amir Khan, and Khan was sitting right behind him?! Good times...