Legislation is worthy of New Jersey residents’ support

I think most of us are aware that a major reason our property taxes are so high is that we are funding not only our own local schools, but also the Abbott district schools.

Parents who believe that dissolving the Abbott districts will benefit us locally are absolutely right.

However, we can’t expect Trenton to simply abandon those districts, because underprivileged children deserve a good education, too. An educated population is in the best interest of all of society. Yet it’s unjust that those who pay more should receive less in return.

Some believe that demanding more funding from Trenton is going to solve our problems locally. However, we need to keep in mind that state funding comes out of our pockets, too. Just because it doesn’t show up on our property tax bill, where it’s glaringly obvious, doesn’t mean we’re not paying.

Pending legislation in the state Senate and Assembly, S-1332 and A-257, would establish a pilot program to provide tax credits for contributions to entities which provide tuition scholarships to children residing in Camden, Newark, Orange and Trenton or fund innovative public school programs. This is essentially equivalent to a school choice voucher program.

Instead of being trapped in a failing district, parents will have a choice to send their children out of district. As a result, failing districts will either shape up or lose enrollment, and thereby lose their excuses for extra funding from the state.

Currently these schools have no incentive to improve. The more they fail, the more money they get from the state (i.e., from us, taxpayers). They are inefficient and, in some cases, corrupt government-run monopolies.

These bills have bipartisan support. To her credit, Sen. Ellen Karcher has signed on as a co-sponsor of S-1332. I believe she, like many of us, realizes that giving parents a choice and giving school districts true incentives is a sensible way to improve our situation.

Children in those failing districts deserve a way out of the trap, and the rest of us deserve relief from back-breaking taxes.

Everyone who is buckling under the burden of New Jersey taxes; everyone who is concerned about the quality of their schools and their children’s education; everyone who wants to dissolve the Abbott districts; everyone who wants equal educational opportunity for all children; and everyone who believes in excellent education for every child should contact their legislators and urge them to support S-1332 and A-257.

The sooner we reform the financing of the Abbott districts, the sooner we will solve our local school finance problems.

Eva Costello