To the Editor:
Your article “N.J. Alliance Launches Petition Drive for School Choice” (Nov. 10, 2004), spotlights arguably the nation’s most contentious education reform battle.
In New Jersey, where the case for funding equity has led to urban districts with per-pupil expenditures from $15,000 (Newark) to nearly $18,000 (Asbury Park), and created some of the nation’s highest average teacher salaries ($77,627 in Newark), achievement has remained abysmal. Last year, nearly 70 percent of Newark’s seniors failed the state’s high school exit exam at least three times. This is an exam that Achieve Inc., in a recent study, determined barely tested 8th grade skills.
New Jersey Education Association spokesperson Steve Wollmer’s quote in your article that school choice advocates will “do anything to give the impression of public support” typifies the NJEA’s abject arrogance, condescension, and lack of accountability. Does this assertion mean that two polls, one conducted by the largest newspaper in the state and the other by a widely respected adjunct to Rutgers University, which showed support for choice and vouchers as high as 75 percent in cities like Newark, are fiction because they don’t agree with the positions of the NJEA and other defenders of the status quo? Are they simply in denial, or do they really think parents and advocates don’t know the truth?
Unwittingly, Mr. Wollmer and his ilk have confirmed exactly why New Jersey’s urban districts need school choice. Until there is real accountability to the parents these folks currently ignore, there will be no real change, no real reform, no real justice for urban children.
N.J. School Choice Alliance