TEANECK, N.J. (JTA) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie advocated for charter schools, vouchers and other forms of school choice during an Orthodox Union-sponsored event.
Education was the primary focus of Sunday morning’s legislative breakfast, which drew a crowd of 600 and lasted for two hours at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J.
OU representatives emphasized two pieces of legislation that OU Advocacy, the lobbying arm of the Orthodox Union, has been promoting in the New Jersey Legislature.
One measure, brought up by the OU’s N.J. regional director of public policy, Josh Pruzansky,would allow New Jersey residents who opt out of the public school system to receive tax credits for the parochial education of their children.
Christie, the event’s keynote speaker, addressed charter schools and school vouchers in general while not directly mentioning parochial schools.
Saying the only people benefiting from New Jersey’s current “failing” school system are “the adults entrenched in that system,” Christie accused opponents of school choice of “keeping their foot on the throats of struggling families.”
Christie previously had advocated for a state Senate bill that proposed a four-year pilot program to provide funds for children in New Jersey’s seven worst-performing school districts to attend private and parochial schools.
The Republican governor recounted his own education, which he said was enabled by his parents’ decision to relocate to Livingston, N.J., from Newark in order to enroll him in the suburban town’s school system.
He encouraged Orthodox voters to exert pressure on candidates for the state Legislature and national office on the “foundational issue” of school choice in the run-up to the November elections.
Christie has a commanding lead in the polls in his race against Democrat Barbara Buono.
The other piece of legislation being promoted by OU Advocacy in New Jersey would allow municipalities to allocate funds to educate children with special needs at parochial schools, which is not permitted under New Jersey law.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg in discussing the measure said any child with special needs who has religious requirements “still has the right to nonsectarian state pay.”
Christie at the breakfast declared his “respect and appreciation” for the values of the Orthodox community.