Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

N.J. School Choice Debate Lays Out Issues, Divisions

January 11, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Although your original article on the New Jersey School Choice Alliance (“N.J. Alliance Launches Petition Drive for School Choice,” Nov. 10, 2004) provided a balanced update on the latest attempt in this state to promote private school vouchers, the letter in response from Derrell Bradford (“Why N.J. Urban Districts Need School Choice,” Letters, Dec. 8, 2004) shows how polarized the debate on choice remains. And neither your article nor Mr. Bradford’s letter offers any real enlightenment on the difficult issues involved. Those issues include:

1. The fact that New Jersey is engaged in the most ambitious program of urban education reform in the nation, pursuant to our state supreme court’s landmark decisions in Robinson v. Cahill and Abbott v. Burke; that even as the latest student-achievement data show that those reforms are beginning to work, with large improvements in the Abbott districts, particularly at the 4th grade level (notwithstanding Mr. Bradford’s dismal report), the movement for property-tax reform is gaining momentum and threatening to dismantle the Abbott reforms; and that there is little evidence that substantial expansion of choice, including vouchers, would contribute anything to either school improvement or financial relief for midwealth districts.

2. The fact that despite a state constitutional provision prohibiting school segregation, New Jersey’s schools remain some of the most segregated in the nation; that some public school choice programs in the state are trying hard to achieve greater racial and ethnic balance within the confines of the law; and that the impact of private school vouchers on this effort is uncertain at best.

3. The fact that the state constitution could be read to prohibit state subsidies for religious activity, including religious schools, and that any program providing vouchers to religious schools surely would be challenged.

4. The fact that education reform is a necessary but insufficient part of the effort to improve urban student achievement and students’ lives; that unless education reform is accompanied by social and economic policies aimed at reducing the pernicious effects of poverty, the achievement gap will not be closed. Even the effective education reform will not be a panacea, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

The recent report by the Rutgers-Newark Institute on Education Law and Policy, “Tough Choices: Setting the Stage for Informed, Objective Deliberation on School Choice” (available at http://ielp.rutgers.edu) addresses these difficult issues and others. Simply reporting on the political debate, providing a forum for rhetoric, may be of some interest to readers, but it is not that helpful.

Brenda Liss

Alan Sadovnik

Paul Tractenberg

Institute on Education Law and Policy

Rutgers University-Newark

Newark, N.J.

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as N.J. School Choice Debate Lays Out Issues, Divisions

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)