About 45 people gathered in Morris Township in support of various plans to allow public funding of private schools, including day schools and yeshivot.
The Jan. 29 event at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum was one of the final events in a weeklong campaign for “school choice” that organizers said included 5,500 events across the country.
Attendees heard proposals and pledged support for school vouchers and other strategies to enable parents to use public funds or to ease their tax bill in order to pay for alternatives to public schools.
Participants at the Morris Township event represented a spectrum of political and educational priorities, from parochial school parents to home schoolers to Tea Party supporters.
Israel Teitelbaum of Morristown, secretary of the Alliance for Free Choice in Education, served as the main organizer of the event.
He said the lone elected official present, NJ State Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Dist. 25), was honored at the event because of legislation he has put forward that would give a voucher to any child to attend private school.
Bucco, in turn, credited Teitelbaum with inspiring him to take up the cause. “He came into my office and explained what the school choice movement was all about,” he said.
The program, “Parental Choice in Education: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time,” was sponsored by the NJ Family Policy Council, NJ Tax Payers’ Association, Alliance for Free Choice in Education, Americans for Prosperity-NJ, Parental Rights-NJ, Veritas Conservative Alliance, Morris Patriots, and 2014 Unity.
Bucco noted that the voucher concept has been introduced in several states, including Wisconsin, Florida, and Indiana. “This is not new, and it has been proven to work,” he said. “The problem in New Jersey is getting the right people to buy into it.”
Three other aspiring political figures took part, all Republicans, though the speakers spoke of a bipartisan approach, “fighting for liberty,” and against oppressive and entrenched positions in both parties.
Moderator Dr. Alieta Eck, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate last year, now plans to run for Congress in the 12th congressional district. “School choice should be a matter for students and teachers, just as health care should be a matter for patients and their doctors, not the government,” said Eck, who runs a free clinic in Somerset.
Also attending were West Orange businessman Brian Goldberg, who plans to run against Sen. Cory Booker for the U.S. Senate in November, and David Larsen of Tewksbury, who intends to challenge Rep. Leonard Lance in the District Seven Republican primary
In one panel discussion, Daryn Iwicki, president of Americans for Prosperity-NJ, said that “the money should follow the child.”
He insisted that those in lower-income communities — like Camden and Paterson — can benefit just as much, or more, than children in wealthier areas, and that providing vouchers wouldn’t drain necessary funding from public schools. “Competition breeds better schools and better teachers,” he said.