RELEASE: Eyes of Nation Turn to New Jersey as Senators Vote on Key School Choice Legislation

Opportunity Scholarship Act goes before Senate committee at 1pm in Trenton

From Excellence Education for Everyone (E3) in New Jersey:

TRENTON, NJ (January 20, 2011) – A key Senate committee vote in Trenton today may determine whether low-income children in New Jersey are provided with access to high-quality schools-or whether they remain confined to underperforming schools that do not meet their needs. The bill is supported by Democrats and Republicans in the state.

At a 1pm hearing of the New Jersey Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee (Committee Room 4 of the State House Annex in Trenton), state senators will vote on whether to move the much-discussed Opportunity Scholarship Act-S-1872-forward.

The legislation-which provides access to scholarships for low-income children in the state’s lowest-performing schools to attend the schools that best meet their needs-is supported by a broad cross-section of education reform activists, civil rights leaders, and religious leaders.

In addition to the bill’s sponsors, Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union) and Senator Tom Kean (R-Union), students, and parents are expected to testify in favor of the legislation. Reverend Reginald Jackson of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey and Martin Perez of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey will also speak.

“Just a few days before the first-ever National School Choice Week, New Jersey parents will gather to see whether key senators will vote in favor of legislation that has been championed for more than five years,” said Derrell Bradford, executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), the state’s leading education reform organization.

The Opportunity Scholarship Act is a budget neutral proposal that would allow corporations to receive state tax credits for donating money to organizations that provide K-12 scholarships to low-income children. The program would provide significant benefits to 40,000 children by the program’s fifth year of operation, estimates indicate. Many of the region’s newspapers have editorialized in favor of the legislation.

“We are hopeful and confident that senators will stand with children who only want access to better schools,” he said. “It is truly a day to take a stand. While we are committed to reforming and revitalizing all of New Jersey’s public schools, children cannot wait five more minutes-let alone five years-for failing schools to improve. They deserve options right now, and the Opportunity Scholarship Act is a critical way to provide those options.”