DeVos’ privatization agenda surfaces in NJ Governor’s race

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By Brian Washington

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Although the she won’t be on the ballot, many New Jersey voters who support public education will head to the polls this November with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ destructive privatization agenda, which includes private school vouchers, on their minds.

New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno asserts she is fully on board when it comes to the agenda backed by DeVos. Guadagno is the current lieutenant governor under Gov. Chris Christie, who is leaving the state’s top office with one of the lowest approval ratings in Garden State history,

Guadagno sees vouchers, which drain scarce resources away from public schools to subsidize the private school tuition of a selected few, and charter schools, run by for-profit companies that are unaccountable to the public, as a “constitutional right.” That’s what she told a crowd at a conference earlier this year.

And no matter how much she tries to distance herself, Guadagno is cut from the same cloth as Christie, who, in 2012, tried to push a DeVos-supported voucher scheme through the state legislature. The plan made it out of legislative committees but never came up for a full vote. That same year, DeVos and her family members gave almost $50,000 to the state GOP.

New Jersey’s Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates: Murphy (L) and Guadagno (R)

If you visit her campaign site, Guadagno talks about improving public schools, but in her mind that means more voucher schemes, unaccountable charter schools and policies educators know don’t help students, such as merit pay.

On the other hand, Phil Murphy, the Democrat in the race for governor, mentions nothing on his campaign site about vouchers, charter schools or any of the other privatization elements you hear DeVos talk about. Instead, he says he will end the era of high-stakes testing in New Jersey.

‘We must get back to the simple premise of letting teachers use classroom time to teach to their students’ needs, and not to a test,” reads a quote from Murphy on his campaign site.

Murphy also supports making higher education more affordable for New Jersey students.

Too many young people and their families are being held back by the unaffordability of a college education. Yet our leaders have sat by as the cost of college spiraled out of control. We need a Governor who is committed to lowering the cost of college and ending the brain drain from our state.

Murphy’s “Getting Education Right” plan also includes the following:

  • Working to expand free pre-K to all New Jersey families;
  • Implementing a “state-of-the-art” STEM curriculum;
  • Expanding access to community colleges for high school students;
  • Creating new vocational training programs to provide alternative pathways of success; and
  • Giving local communities a stronger voice in education decisions by working to end state takeovers and abandoning the top-down approach of the Christie administration.

New Jersey’s race for governor, one of only two gubernatorial races this November (the other being Virginia), is inching up on people’s radar. Educators and public school advocates will want to pay close attention to this space to get the latest updates as Garden State residents choose their next governor, one whose education policies will shape the state’s students and their futures for years to come.

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