Trenton, NJ — May 13, 2010

A large crowd descended on the State House Annex in Trenton to voice strong opposition to Senator Raymond Lesniak’s voucher bill (S1872, “Opportunity Scholarship Act”). The bill was taken up by the Senate Economic Growth Committee, chaired by Senator Lesniak.

In an unusual maneuver, Senator Lesniak suddenly decided not to hold the committee meeting in the State House room where it had been scheduled. Noting that the room was filled with voucher opponents, the Senator’s representative announced that half of the room’s occupants needed to leave so voucher supporters could come in, or the meeting would be held outside.

A somewhat chaotic meeting ensued on the steps of the State House Annex. Senator Lesniak presided over the unusual scene, and although public testimony was given, it was difficult to hear or follow the proceedings.

Voucher proponents tried to portray the NJEA, the state teachers’ union, as the only opposition to the voucher bill. However, opposition to Senator Lesniak’s bill is broad, deep and statewide, including parents and advocates in urban areas concerned that the voucher bill will drain their schools of the funds they desperately need.

Representatives from ACLU-NJ, NJASA, NJPSA, NJEA and other organizations spoke about the pitfalls of the bill. Time did not allow representatives to testify from NJ Policy Perspectives, NJ Working Families Alliance, Paterson Education Fund, the Urban Schools Superintendents of NJ, NJ NAACP, school district leaders, and many others, though written statements were submitted.

Dr. Lauren Hill of Education Law Center, a Camden resident, testified against the bill. To read ELC’s statement, click here .

After the testimony, there was no discussion about the bill by Committee members. Instead, the bill was moved and seconded and immediately brought to a vote.

It is expected that the bill will now move to the Senate Budget Committee.

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