President Obama, in his State of the Union address, noted that in order for us to compete internationally, the time is now to invest in our future. I believe that it is imperative that we act to reform public education in America as we know it. The moment is now. I am fully committed to promoting and supporting education reform in order to guarantee that we support and improve our public schools to “win the future”.
I have been an ardent and vigorous sponsor of public school choice, including numerous bills involving charter schools, the first prime sponsor of the Interdistrict Public School Choice Bill and the bill permitting conversion of parochial schools to charter schools. I chair the School Choice Sub-Committee of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools.
I am a former school board member and the mother of three children, all of whom were educated in our state’s public schools. As Sen. Barbara Buono so eloquently stated: “We need to fix public schools, not disinvest in them.”
I have significant concerns with the “Opportunity Scholarship Act” and find that I cannot support the bill. The most recent iteration will cost our state $800 million in corporate taxes that our general treasury will not receive, with a commensurate reduction in state aid to the school districts that need it most.
The bill provides that 25% of the 40,000 vouchers will subsidize students already attending private and parochial schools, and those institutions will not be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and otherwise impermissible grounds, can remove students without cause and the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Law (of which I am a prime sponsor) will not apply.
Finally, there is no accountability for educational performance and teachers are not required to be certified. While I believe this bill is well-intentioned, I believe it is fatally flawed and will do a disservice to all of our state’s students.