Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Question for NJ State Senator Tom Kean Jr.: Why Not Universal School Choice Now?

In what is becoming an annual ritual in New Jersey, the Opportunity Scholarship Act is once again introduced into the state's legislature. The act is a limited, tax credit-based plan to offer school choice to select parents in "failing" districts. Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R), the prime sponsor, penned an op-ed in support of the bill.

As in the past, and as is typical of conservative school choice activists, Kean couched his plan not as a step away from "public" education, but under political cover of support for them:

Opportunity scholarships are not an abandonment of public education. We will continue to invest in any and all means of improving chronically failing school districts so that they, too, can offer the children in their communities a quality education. But until that day comes, we must take extraordinary measures to ensure another generation of children are not shuffled through a school system that isn’t meeting their needs.

I left the following comments:

In his 2010 AFC Summit Keynote Address, [NJ] Governor [Chris] Christie called the OSA [Opportunity Scholarship Act] a "first step" that would lead to the day when "choice is available to every parent and every child... across the state of NJ." 

Why wait? Who's to say there aren't children in "good" school districts whose parents don't believe their child's needs are being met. I put forward a robust tax credit plan, published in The Objective Standard, that would allow all tax payers to sponsor the education of any child anywhere. 

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

Not only do all parents have a right to pick their child's school. Every taxpayer has a right to choice over how his education dollars are spent. Why not allow taxpayers to apply tax credits to the education of his grandchild, nephew, friend, or specialized scholarship funds for children of poor parents, active servicemen, the gifted, special needs, or other educational missions?

Christie said the OSA "is not the final solution" to our educational problems. He did not call it a temporary stop-gap measure to be employed only "until that day comes [when] chronically failing school districts  can offer the children in their communities a quality education.Christie's heroic ideal would make choice a permanent, integral part of NJ education.

School choicers are going to get beaten up by the establishment reactionaries no matter what. Why spend another year on fractional measures like OSA? Why not put our energy toward fighting for school choice for everyone, not just as a practical matter, but as a moral imperative?

Related Reading:

NJ State Senator Tom Kean Jr. and the Opportunity Scholarship Act

Louisiana's Voucher Plan to De-Privatize Private Schools

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?


Mike Kevitt said...

I assume Senator Kean's op-ed was printed in the NJ St.-Lgr. and that the comments you left were like an LTE. Did the editor print your comments? If he did, many people, singles & parents alike, must've read it. If you've had other, similar, comments published before, lots of people must be getting ideas like your proposal in your TOS article. If so, shouldn't you start getting some positive feedback sooner or later? Shouldn't it start snowballing, giving you LOTS of feedback? Wouldn't the Governor & the NJ legislature start hearing drumbeats? How long should it take?

If I think people will recognize a good thing when they see it, and jump on it, I guess I'm really just making an assumption. But it should be a safe assumption.

Mike LaFerrara said...

This is an on-line comment only. It probably has a smaller readership than the print addition. On the other hand, the kinds of people that take the time to follow the correspondence on-line tend to be active-minded people, so the chances are good for reaching the right kinds of minds.

In any event, I would think Senator Kean and his staff would read the comments to his article. Politicians are very attuned to their constituents, and I would think that either he or someone on his staff would have followed the link to my article, and read it. So, at the least, my ideas should have penetrated Kean's office. At least, that's my hope.

I've posted a link to my article before, but haven't gotten much feedback in NJ. However, activists in Virginia working toward introducing a major school choice bill there contacted TOS not long ago for permission to quote from my article in support of their bill.

I have no idea on time frames, but I do believe that a radical approach like mine is making inroads into the school choice movement. To what extent, who knows? But we need to get past the apologetic approach like Kean's and take the offensive.