Camden Public Schools Will Lay off 100 Educators: Move Towards Efficiency or a Sell-Out?May 1, 2013
Why Don’t Camden Kids Have Textbooks?May 3, 2013
In response, Education Law Center claims that such a new program is unconstitutional because the budget is only supposed to fund existing programs, and the American Civil Liberties Unions of NJ agrees with the advocacy center. Here’s David Sciarra, Executive Director of ELC:
“The governor is using the budget bill to create a program that he can’t get through the Legislature. The budget is used to fund existing programs, not create them.”
Sciarra said his Newark-based group “would strongly consider bringing a challenge, but I don’t think that will be necessary.”
But Gov. Christie is not rolling over. Said his spokesman Mike Drewniak, “They [Education Law Center] are one of the biggest backers of the decades-long failure of the education funding mechanism that has failed too many children. They are backers of the status quo, so bring it on.”
No doubt they will. As the Ledger points out, challenging Christie budgets is practically ELC’s hobby. Besides, the Abbott district advocates are on pretty strong ground, because state money is supposed to support free public schools, not tuition-based religious ones. (Then again, there’s Lakewood, but that’s another matter.)
A $2 million one-year pilot, however, represents a tremendous concession on Christie’s part; the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the original voucher program, was priced at $360 million. So what if Legislators, election year be damned, were able to patch together a program that not only represented a drop in the proverbial fiscal bucket ($2 million is about one half of one percent of Newark’s annual school budget) but also limited eligibility to our poorest kids trapped in our very worst schools?
Two million dollars is enough to send 200 kids to parochial school for one year. What if all those kids just came from Camden, NJ’s poster child for educational blight? Or only came from, say, Camden, Trenton, and Newark? For one year. For 200 kids. There’s no educational downside, though there may be precedential ones. That’s a concern for adult politicians, but not so much children and their families who are currently denied their constitutional rights to a thorough and effective education system.