TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie called for $1 million to help create a new Governor’s Urban Scholarship Program for urban students, softening his mostly Democratic Party audience as he used his budget address to make a renewed pitch for a thornier demand: a vouchers pilot program.
In crafting his argument for the Opportunity Scholarship Act, Christie took a jab at Vince Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).
“It’s not enough and it’s not appropriate, to simply tell our most challenged urban families, trapped in over 200 failing schools, that ‘life’s not fair,'” said Christie, pouncing on a Giordano quote.
“That is the expressed attitude of some in the educational establishment in our state. It is not mine. It can no longer be the attitude of this Legislature. Our job is to make the future better for every child in a failing school. We cannot simply accept failure or even mediocrity. We must demand excellence.”
Christie said his $32.1 billion budget proposes an increase of over $28 million above last year for student financial assistance, the bulk of which is a 10% increase in funding for tuition aid grants.
“As we continue to support higher education, let us implement the excellent recommendations of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Advisory Committee,” said the governor.
“The committee has given us a blueprint for long-overdue reform. We can usher in a new era for medical education – throughout the state. And we can make sure that New Jersey secures its rightful place as the national leader in medical education and biomedical research. Let’s implement that plan.”
Then he made the argument for the controversial vouchers pilot program, among other education reforms.
“I ask you again to pass this year the education reforms I put before you in my State of the State address,” said the governor. “We need to reform tenure. We need to pay the best teachers more. We need to expand charter schools in our failing school districts. And we need to give choice and hope to those students and parents now trapped in failing school districts by passing the Opportunity Scholarship Act.”