Grassroots Group Says School Vouchers Ignore Problem of Poverty

The issuing of school vouchers has become a contentious topic with some, including Gov. Chris Christie, saying vouchers will improve education for students stuck in failing public schools and others saying the system will not work. Grassroots organization Save Our Schools NJ opposes school vouchers, with representative Julia Rubin saying evidence in other states has shown the system does not improve student achievement. She sat down with NJ Today’s Desiree Taylor to discuss the issue.

Rubin said school vouchers don’t work. “Wisconsin has had a voucher program for 20 years and the children who received vouchers … have not done better as an outcome of receiving those vouchers,” she said. “As a matter of fact, 75 percent of them end up coming back to the traditional school system after two years and test scores for the kids who have received vouchers have actually been lower than the test scores for the children who have stayed in the traditional public schools.”

Rubin also said data has shown that most New Jerseyans agree with her organization about school vouchers. “The majority of New Jersey residents oppose it,” she said. “Poll after poll has shown that New Jersey residents do not want their taxes to be used for private and religious education.”

According to Rubin, poverty is a major factor in student achievement. She said students who receive low scores on standardized tests tend to be poor. “The idea that these children would automatically do better academically because they’re in a different school ignores an awful lot of factors that are leading to their educational outcome,” she said.

Instead of focusing on schools, state aid and teacher disputes, Rubin said officials should be looking to help those living in poverty. “You have to address the poverty,” she said. “And I think unfortunately that this focus on schools and teachers is really a way of not talking about what’s causing those children not to do well.”

Financial resources are important for school districts, but Rubin said they need to be used properly. “A good affordable housing strategy that disperses that poverty would go a long way towards improving children’s educational outcomes because when you concentrate them in one place and everyone around them is equally poor, they do much, much, much worse,” she explained.

Rubin said Save Our Schools NJ doesn’t have a position on teacher tenure. “We really focus on just a couple of issues because we believe there is a terrible attack going on on public education,” she said.