By The Star-Ledger and COLlive
A group of educational activists called New Jersey’s urban public schools inadequate Thursday and urged legislators to give parents more options.
“After many years, so many children have come out of failing public schools and they are black, brown and low-income,” Alfred Bundy of the Black Alliance for Educational Options said at a rally held in Newark. “The public school system will never reform itself from within.”
About 40 people gathered in pouring rain outside the Essex County Courthouse for the two-hour event, as speakers urged more official support for alternatives like vouchers and parochial, private and charter schools.
The issue has figured prominently in the 2009 gubernatorial race.
Former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, the Republican candidate, voiced his support for vouchers in Camden last month, and Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine regularly touts a bigger education budget in campaign appearances.
The rally was organized by Israel Teitelbaum, a Lubavitcher from Morristown, who co-founded Parents for Free Choice in Education (schoolchoicevoter.org).
Another speaker at the rally, the Rev. Reginald Jackson, said he expected both candidates to respond next week to questionnaires he sent on school choice and other educational issues.
Until then, Jackson, executive director of New Jersey’s Black Ministers Council, declined to endorse Corzine, whom he called a personal friend.
Rabbi Shea Hecht, chairman of the board of NCFJE (National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education) call for action regarding ongoing efforts for parental choice in education.
“The greatest domestic crisis in America is our failed educational system, and the manner is which it is taxed and funded is an affront to religious liberty,” Hecht said.
“We need to learn the lessons of history and speak out when our individual and religious liberty is being violated.
“A coalition of organizations and private citizens from a broad cross section of the community has formed to make parental choice in education a reality.
Some 39 state districts were designated “Districts in Need of Improvement” this year, down from 52 in 2008, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.