By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog
Atlantic City’s MUA debacle (part of the larger state takeover debate) overshadowed a major development at Wednesday night’s council meeting, Save Jerseyans.
This November, when voters in A.C. head to the polls, they’ll pass judgment not only on the state-wide casino gaming referendum but also a pair of city-specific school choice ballot questions.
The questions will read as follows:
“Shall the State of New Jersey designate the City to begin offering vouchers to families with children ages 6-16 so they can select the school they want their children to attend?”
“Shall the State of New Jersey designate the City of Atlantic City to begin offering property tax credits to families with children ages 6-16 who choose to home school?”
The resolution (see attached here) was passed unanimously by the Democrat-dominated body and was filed with the Atlantic County Clerk by the August 19th deadline for submitting a non-binding referendum in time for the November ballot. It’s the brainchild of our friend, freshman GOP Councilman Jesse Kurtz, who is himself an NJEA member at Atlantic Cape Community College.
Jesse, who’s been active since taking office in January but continually frustrated by Trenton’s move to hijack the discussion of the troubled resort town’s fate, was stirred to move forward with his resolution after the city’s school board implemented a massive 17% tax increase between Quarter 2 and Quarter 3.
“I came up with an idea to put non-binding referendum questions on the November ballot to ask the people of Atlantic City if the State should permit A.C. to institute both a school voucher and home school tax credit system. We need to build a sustainable town for the future; we can’t have a situation where people move because of the school system,” Jesse told me over the phone on Friday.
“We want people to stay, build roots, and pass that legacy on to the next generation.”
Besides the obvious benefit to students in one of the state’s largest struggling education districts, Councilman Kurtz sees massive near-term and long-term gains for taxpayers.
“It both gives poor families the means to receive the education of their dreams and would save taxpayers between $12,000-to-$15,000 per student who leaves the public school system and opts for a voucher — $5,000 for elementary, $8,000 for high school — not to mention the opportunity for educational innovation with the small private schools that would pop-up to offer different educational options and compete for the vouchers.”
Step #1: rally the Atlantic City’s residents.
Jesse says he’ll campaign hard for the questions through Election Day; he hopes a positive result with turn heads in Trenton and around the state at a time when Governor Chris Christie is campaigning for the adoption of his “Fairness Formula” school funding equalization plan.
“We don’t want a bailout,” Jesse, who likes the Governor’s formula, insists when asked about his ultimate goal. “We want permission for the city to implement these programs and succeed.”
You can bet we’ll be watching (and rooting for) Jesse Kurtz and his constituents over the next 80 days.