By Ben Velderman
TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie is such a true believer in school choice that he’s leaving no stone unturned in his quest to get a pilot voucher plan implemented in The Garden State.
In his recent budget, Christie included $2 million that would allow low-income children to obtain private school vouchers, The New York Times reports.
Christie’s plan is being denounced by critics as an illegal “end-run” around the state legislature, which has steadfastly refused legislation that would establish a school voucher system.
Americans United, a politically progressive organization, also argues that the New Jersey Constitution prohibits any school voucher plan that would allow public dollars to pay tuition at religious schools.
That oft-heard argument against school vouchers was dealt a significant setback recently, when the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the beneficiaries of vouchers are families – not religious institutions, reports National Public Radio.
But those legal arguments are premature in New Jersey, where no voucher plan currently exists.
The first step for Christie and school choice supporters is to get a program in place. If Christie’s $2 million voucher proposal fails – as it’s widely expected to – he will likely have to wait until his potential second term before trying again.
Christie has made vouchers (or “opportunity scholarships,” as he calls them) a priority over the last three years.
As NewJerseyNewsroom.com notes, “The governor has been advocating for vouchers at just about every town hall, citing students in failing public schools could be able to attend classes outside their district.”
If Christie makes vouchers a centerpiece of a successful re-election bid this fall, he may have the political clout to muscle a voucher bill through the legislature.
But until then, it appears that meaningful school choice is still just a “pie-in-the-sky” wish in New Jersey.