As a member of both the New Jersey Assembly Budget and Education Committees, I get to see first-hand the intersection of our state’s fiscal and educational policies. This vantage point has given me a greater appreciation of the difficult decisions that New Jersey faces with respect to ensuring that every child is given the best chance to succeed academically, while recognizing the financial constraints which sometimes limit our options. However, by serving in this capacity I am emboldened to push our educational system in a way that allows all of our children to fulfill their enormous promise. This promise can only be nurtured forward by a comprehensive and cohesive agenda that no longer pits tax payer against tax payer or child against child, but rather recognizes that through our common purpose we can raise the educational standards of every child.
I firmly and ardently believe in our public education system and its promise of societal elevation through academic accomplishment. However, to ignore that our system of public education inadequately prepares some segments of our society to compete in the global marketplace is foolish. That is why I remain committed to developing a strong, stable and consistent funding system for our public schools. A system that ensures a quality education remains viable for all New Jerseyans regardless of their zip code. That is why I have supported the use of scholarships to help students in failing schools, attend schools that are succeeding. And, I am not alone.
A May 2012 Quinnipiac University poll, showed that 7 out of 10 New Jersey residents supported scholarships for students in chronically, underperforming urban schools to attend schools that are succeeding. While this information is reaffirming it is in no way surprising to any of us who believe that we as a society have a responsibility to address our state’s most chronically failing schools. To do nothing, would be to sentence generations of our youth, trapped in a cycle of failing education, to a future destitute of opportunity and hope.
I liken this issue to a fire that is burning in our cities and we are bogged down in rhetoric about who is going to hold the hose, which hydrant we should connect to, and who will open the flow. Generations of our neediest children have either dropped out, opted out of continuing education, matriculated to college ill or unprepared, or have dropped into lives of poverty and malaise. All while policy-makers have not demonstrated the will to change this ill-fated trajectory of our children’s education.
We can continue to debate who is at fault for the failure of many of our urban schools…while our children still suffer, or we can be proactive about demanding a change. We can no longer turn a blind eye to this reality. Let’s give our urban children in chronically-failing schools a chance for a brighter future….and let’s do it NOW!