Opponents Thwart NJ Choice Bill

Published November 1, 2006

At press time, New Jersey state legislators were awaiting a hearing for the Urban Schools Scholarship Act (A-257, S-1332). Led by Democrats in both the state assembly and senate, the bill proposes creating a five-year corporate tax credit pilot program in Camden, Newark, Orange, and Trenton.

Modeled after similar corporate tax credit legislation in Arizona and Pennsylvania, the bill would provide low-income students living in these districts with the opportunity to apply for funds from nonprofit scholarship organizations. Corporations that donate to the scholarship organizations would receive a dollar-for-dollar tax benefit.

Democratic support is critical in New Jersey, and in this instance it is a clear response to citizen demand, said Dan Gaby, executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone (E3).

“E3 has succeeded in informing and mobilizing those most affected by [the Urban Schools Scholarship Act] bill,” Gaby said. “The system as presently constituted is destroying their choice. We have to put competitive pressure on the public schools to reform. School choice is being resisted by those with the capacity to move to better districts. Making this known forces the Democratic party to respond or pay the price at the polls.”

Partisans Blocking

Even so, Gaby lamented that partisan politics have blocked the bill.

“The bill has been filed with the education committees of both the Assembly and the Senate, and it awaits a hearing,” Gaby explained. “We believe that there is substantial support on the floor, but the chairs of the two committees are holding it up under pressure from the teachers’ unions.

“We believe we have majorities in both houses,” Gaby said. “So, basically, two individuals are thwarting the will of both legislative bodies.”

Karla Dial