Each time we talk about vouchers, even lightly disguised as “Opportunity Scholarships”, I think of Noah’s Ark. You know the story. God sends a flood to destroy the evil people, but gives Noah a chance to save two of each kind of animal to repopulate a new earth by building the ark. Good for the lucky chosen few, wholesale destruction for the rest.

Is that that paradigm we want to follow? Are only a few children worthy of a good education? Over the years, I’ve had these discussions over and over again. Voucher proponents insist that privledging a few children will cause the other schools to improve. And when they can’t show any real evidence about that, they argue that individual families ought to have the right to find the best school for their children. Some families, they believe, can opt out of the struggle to provide for all our children and get on Noah’s Ark.

For me, vouchers and opportunity scholarships are a way of preserving privilege for a few. You know, the kids who have two parents and few obstacles. No addictions, no special needs, no learning disabilities, no homelessness or hunger. I actually sat at a lunch and had two people describe just this catagorization as the way they provided scholarships to a religious school in Paterson.

We can educate every child we care about by providing what they need. It’s why vouchers are so destructive. They siphon off both public will and public dollars from the children who need our support the most.

How can we, on one hand, hold that the State of New Jersey doesn’t have enough money to fully fund its public education system and then proceed to give tax breaks that assure less money for our children in public schools? The inconsistancy boggles the mind. And it will be on display next week as the Legislature, once again, takes up the voucher legislation.

The time for Noah’s Ark has passed.  And if we don’t educate ALL of our children, it really will be the fire next time.

Irene