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April 11, 2001 1 min read
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Private Interests

Mayor Bret Schundler of Jersey City, N.J., wanted to attract attention to his private-school-scholarship fund, so he ran television and radio advertisements across the state.

Attention he got.

Brett Schundler

Some have criticized the fact that the ads, which ran last November and December in the weeks before Mr. Schundler announced his candidacy for the 2001 Republican nomination for governor, were paid for with $800,000 from the fund.

The critics pointed out that the cost approached the $892,000 in scholarships that the fund has provided to help K-12 students attend private and parochial schools in the past five years.

Campaign officials for Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco, who will face Mr. Schundler in the June 5 GOP primary, said the ads were designed to further the mayor’s gubernatorial bid.

The ads featured Mr. Schundler, a strong advocate of school choice, calling for legislation that would give state tax breaks to residents who donated to private-school-scholarship efforts such as his own.

He started the Jersey City Scholarship Fund in 1995 to help pay inner-city students’ tuition costs, before expanding its focus and renaming it the New Jersey Scholarship Fund last year.

“It is more than suspicious that virtually no other scholarship fund feels the need to advertise on television,” said Charlie Smith, Mr. DiFrancesco’s campaign manager. “It is more than coincidental that Bret Schundler was compelled to do so only during the year he became a candidate for governor.”

But a spokesman for the Schundler campaign said donors knew what their contributions were going for. “Frankly, the bulk of the money came from foundations that knew it would go toward ads,” said Mr. Guhl. “There really isn’t any controversy, except from our political opponent.”

—Lisa Fine

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A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2001 edition of Education Week

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