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LET'S FOLLOW THE LEAD OF ILLINOIS LEGISLATORS AND DUMP VOUCHER BILL

Last week, a bill to establish a taxpayer-funded program to provide vouchers for a limited number of students in "failing" Chicago public schools to attend private and religious schools was decisively defeated in the Illinois State Legislature. In voting down the measure, Legislators made clear that they would not allow taxpayer dollars to be diverted to private and parochial schools, especially at a time when Illinois is facing serious difficulty in properly funding its public schools.

Legislators also cited the need to make sure public education was adequately funded for all students, rather than using scarce public resources on vouchers for a relatively small number of children.

The defeated Illinois voucher bill is similar to legislation pending in the New Jersey State Senate, sponsored by Senators Joseph Kyrillos, Thomas Kean, Jr., and Raymond Lesniak. The bill -- Senate Bill 1872 -- is also supported by Governor Christopher Christie and NJ Education Commissioner Bret Schundler.

The NJ voucher bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Economic Growth Committee on Thursday, May 13, at 10:30 a.m., in Committee Room 6, 1st Floor, State House Annex, Trenton.

Supporters of NJ public schools are urged to attend the hearing to oppose the bill.

The New Jersey bill allows corporations to contribute $360 million for private school vouchers and receive a 100% deduction from their state taxes. This corporate tax break results in a loss of $360 million in revenue to the State Treasury, revenue that is no longer available to support public education. The bill then diverts this $360 million in public funds to private and religious schools, with no requirement that these schools meet State education quality and performance standards.

Under the bill, 36 districts would be targeted for vouchers because they have at least one district or charter school labeled "chronically failing." All public school students who "reside" in the district -- whether they attend the "failing" school or not -- can apply for a voucher, and 25% of all vouchers are "reserved" for students already attending a religious or private school.

Voucher proponents are trying to sell NJ vouchers as "help" for "failing public schools." In reality, this bill will drain from the State Treasury public dollars that should be used to fund public education for all students. The bill will particularly undermine funding for high needs public schools, the ones that need the most support from the State. It also runs counter to federal policies designed to improve high needs schools in low income communities.

Illinois legislators saw through the slick sales pitch and rejected vouchers as wrong for Illinois public schools and students. Legislators in Trenton should follow their lead and dump NJ's voucher bill.

For more information, contact:
Sharon Krengel, Policy & Outreach Coordinator, skrengel@edlawcenter.org, 973.624.1815 Ext. 24