Overflow crowd for school voucher hearing

TRENTON – By 12:30, the floor was already filled school kids, as an overflowing crowd – too many to fit in Committee Room 4 – were gathering for a 1 p.m. Senate Budget and Appropriations committee meeting on a school voucher program.

The Opportunity Scholarship Act has bipartisan support, with sponsor state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) and co-sponsor Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) leading the way.

The measure would allow businesses to gain tax credits by sponsoring scholarships for public school children from 13 urban, chronically failing districts.

Children from several urban, mostly parochial schools were gathering in the room, including a large turnout from St. Anthony’s in Passaic and former administrators and students from the now-defunct East Rutherford Catholic.

East Rutherford is just one of many parochial schools that are experiencing extremely difficult times; the oldest continually-operating Catholic school in Bergen County closed their doors last March.

The measure is expected to get full support from committee Republicans – Kean and state Sens. Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton), Michael Doherty (R-Washington Twp.), Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove), Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) and Joe Pennacchio (R-Mntville). Oroho and Bucc are co-sponsors.

Democrats, on the other hand, aren’t tipping their hand, although several are on record in support of the bill.

Overflow crowd for school voucher hearing