New Jersey's Long Battle for School Choice Stalls: Colorado Still Supports You

About a month ago I brought your attention to the remarkable story from the New Jersey legislature, in which a liberal Democrat committee chairman moved a voucher bill hearing outside after union members hogged all the seats and refused to give up any to children supporting the bill.

Well, today the Wall Street Journal has the latest news on this legislation, and it’s not all good for school choice supporters:

A bill that would give poor children in New Jersey scholarships to attend private schools is bottled up in the Democratic-controlled Legislature even though it has the backing of prominent members of the party.

The bill, called the Opportunity Scholarship Act, is essentially a voucher program that would give as many as 20,000 poor students who go to failing schools about $6,000 to $9,000 each to attend a private or parochial school. The scholarships would be paid for by corporations, which would donate to a scholarship fund and receive the same amount as a tax credit. The contributions would be limited to a total of $360 million over the five years of the program….

Proponents of the bill say the votes exist in both the Senate and Assembly, if only Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver would post the bill for discussion.

Nobody ever said a legislative battle like this one would be easy. Empowering poor families with greater school choice, which would create competition, threatens established interests. And in almost no other state are established interests (read: teachers unions) as strong as they are in New Jersey.

While it’s disappointing to see private school choice legislation bottled up in Trenton, let’s keep some perspective. The bill is still alive, has strong backing from both sides of the aisle (including Governor Chris Christie, who has pledged to sign it), and if passed not only would aid thousands of poorer New Jersey students but also would open the door politically for vital school choice progress in other states.

So stiffen your spines, stay strong and don’t lose heart in doing well. The struggle will not be easy, but the price of purchasing new educational opportunities for untold numbers of students will be well worth it. New Jersey, your friends in Colorado stand with you.