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School Choice Week kicks off in New Jersey

by Alesha Williams Boyd

The Asbury Park Press

It’s National School Choice Week, observed here in New Jersey through a proclamation by Gov. Chris Christie.

The week, Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, is a campaign to raise awareness about the need to offer children greater access to challenging educational options – from high-performing public schools to charter, magnet and private schools and homeschooling, according to the campaign’s organizers.

National School Choice Week was kicked off in New Jersey Sunday with a School Choice Summit held at the Holiday Inn of East Windsor.

Invited speakers included New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, Derrell Bradford of New Jersey Better Education for Kids, Carlos Pérez of New Jersey Charter School Association, New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R), and Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera (D).

The event was moderated by Bob Bowdon, director of “The Cartel,” a 2009 documentary on what he viewed as out-of-control spending and inefficiencies in New Jersey schools.

“ What the issue really is is whether or not we are going to empower low-income families with the same sort of educational opportunities that rich ones have,” Bradford says. “Every time we use public policy to extend more choices to families, they show us — whatever their income — that there is a desire for increased educational options and
opportunities.

“Look at the wait lists for charter schools in a place like Newark, where there are as many kids on waiting lists to get into charters as there are currently enrolled in them,” Bradford said. “Or look at the state’s interdistrict public school choice program which has tripled its enrollment in the last three years and now gives another school option to over 6,000 students. Families want options for their children because there are as many ways to educate students as there are ways students like to learn.”

With 64 events being held to celebrate the week in New Jersey – and with 3,500 total events spanning all 50 states – National School Choice Week is the world’s largest-ever celebration of education reform, according to organizers. Events include everything from rallies and roundtable discussions to coffeehouse meet-ups, according to week organizers.

The effort is driven by more than 200 education advocates and partner organizations, according to the School Choice Week website.

Here’s the list of participating school choice districts in Monmouth and Ocean counties. There are currently 109 approved ChoiceDistricts statewide for the 2013-14 school year.

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