Despite strong bipartisan support Speaker Sheila Oliver prevents passage
TRENTON, N.J., June 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/-- The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—today criticized New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver for refusing to schedule a vote on the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA), preventing thousands of New Jersey children from low-income families from escaping the state's worst-performing schools.
Despite strong bipartisan support for the legislation, which had the votes to pass both the state Senate and the state Assembly, Oliver refused to allow the bill to proceed in the Assembly.
The OSA would create a corporate scholarship tax credit program for students from low-income families in failing school districts to attend the public or private schools of their parents' choice. The OSA's bipartisan support included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), longtime champion Senator Ray Lesniak (D), Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R), Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R), and Assemblymen Angel Fuentes (D), Gary Schaer (D), Troy Singleton (D), and Gilbert Wilson (D), among others.
"Politics has once again gotten in the way of helping children escape persistently failing schools," said Kevin P. Chavous, senior advisor to the American Federation for Children. "Democrats and Republicans have worked tirelessly to provide real educational options to families in need, but a lack of leadership by the Speaker has dashed the hopes of thousands of children across the state."
Under the scaled back Assembly bill, children in low-income families living in Newark, Camden, Elizabeth, Ashbury Park, Lakewood, Passaic, and Orange would be eligible to participate. Nearly 20,000 children would have been eligible for scholarships over four years.
In Camden, 23 of the city's 26 schools are failing. That same designation applies to 45 of 66 public schools in Newark, as well as seven of 12 schools in Passaic and 16 of 26 public schools in Elizabeth.
Lawmakers have pledged to reconsider the bill during a future legislative session.
Last month, Governor Christie, Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), and New Jersey business leader George Norcross all spoke at the American Federation for Children's National Policy Summit in Jersey City, N.J., in support of the Opportunity Scholarship Act. In recent weeks, parents have repeatedly called on the Speaker and other members of the legislature to pass the OSA.
SOURCE American Federation for Children