N.J. City May Face Vote On Vouchers

Voters in Atlantic City, N.J., will see a non-binding referendum on their ballots next month asking whether the city should establish a school voucher program.

City Councilmen Jesse Kurtz and Aaron Randolph put forth wording for the referendum Aug. 17, and it was approved unanimously by the council. Kurtz claims that vouchers will save the financially strapped city money by encouraging parents to place their students in private schools, but opponents say that’s not likely to happen.

The proposal would provide private school students who receive a voucher up to $10,000 per year in tuition aid.

Alongside vouchers, the referendum will also give voters a chance to approve whether Atlantic City should grant parents who homeschool their children property-tax credits.

The Atlantic City Education Association said the referendum is an effort to cut funding for the city’s already ailing public schools.

“[I]t is unconscionable for anyone to even contemplate stripping even more funds from Atlantic City’s public school students,” Marcia Genova, president of the education group, said.

AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett and State Legislative Counsel Amrita Singh sent the council a detailed letter Sept. 1 highlighting the problems with vouchers and urging that the referendum be canceled.

“Although we appreciate that the Council is seeking ways to address its budget crisis, vouchers are not the answer,” Garrett and Singh wrote. “Indeed, they will likely exacerbate the problem while simultaneously inviting new problems. Therefore, we urge you to remove the voucher and tax credit questions from the ballot.”

The council had the opportunity to reconsider the referendum on Sept. 7. It discussed the matter but did not take a vote.