Friday, May 14, 2010

N.J. Senate committee approves school voucher bill during raucous hearing

Gov. Christie has put his full support behind this school voucher bill and it has a great chance of passing even though the NJEA is having a conniption-fit. The current education system in NJ and the entire US is not working and union work rules are a big reason. Tenured teachers cannot be fired except in extreme cases and something had to be done.

The charter schools may siphon off those students that want to learn but don't have the option of private schools. Those that apply will, most likely, have parents that take interest in their children's education. At least these children will be saved.

Maybe this will be a wake-up call for public schools to restore order in the schools, to require teachers to stay current and to roll back the union rules and benefits that are bankrupting the taxpayers and sentencing our children to an unfulfilled life.

TRENTON -- A Senate committee approved legislation today creating scholarships for students to attend private schools during a raucous hearing held in front of the Statehouse Annex building.

Hundreds of demonstrators, mostly students from private and charter schools, gathered to rally for the bill. Supporters said it provides students a chance to leave failing public schools, while opponents said it undermines the public school system.

The bill (S1872) could fund $24 million in scholarships for up to 4,000 children the first year. After five years, up to 20,000 children would receive $120 million in scholarships, they said. More money would be set aside for grants to public schools. The funding would come from donations by corporations who would receive tax credits equal to their contributions.

The New Jersey Education Association, the powerful teacher's union, said the bill would drain more money from public schools at a time when Gov. Chris Christie is already slashing $820 million in state aid to school districts.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee. The hearing was scheduled to be held in a normal committee room, but senators said it was packed with NJEA members when they arrived.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said he asked them to make room for some of the bill's supporters, splitting the seating evenly between the two sides.

"They said we're not moving. So we'll have it outside," he said.

Statehouse staff carried out desks and chairs for senators, and the hearing -- complete with testimony and parliamentary procedure -- was held in front of hundreds of demonstrators.

"It's a great lesson in civics," Lesniak said.

But critical support from Assembly Democrats may be lacking. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said there are concerns the bill could harm public schools.

"There are mixed feelings," she said. "There are a lot of opponents who support ideologically the concept of public education, and they feel this is the beginning step of the erosion of public education."

African-American churches, led by Black Ministers Council Executive Director Rev. Reginald Jackson, held a press conference earlier this morning to support the legislation. He said people need to decide whether to support school institutions or the children.

"Why do we insist on supporting a failing system?" he said. "When are we going to decide our children are more important."
Read full article here.

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