Recently, I came across an article on my Facebook page that dealt with local choice in education on the issue of charter schools. The author, Marilyn Joyce Lehren brings up some very good points about the people of the town being able to decide whether or not they want charter schools in their community, as well as what standards should be applied. The interesting part of how I got to the article was the group that had shared it on their wall, none other than the New Jersey Assembly Democrats.

Now the New Jersey Democrats as a whole have very often been unfriendly to the Tenther agenda in general. While I’m on the topic, many New Jersey Republicans haven’t exactly been noble defenders of state, local, family and individual sovereignty. Trenton, in this very blue state, has generally been very…let’s just say “involved” in the daily lives of New Jerseyans, and has been very helpful to DC in staying “involved” as well.

No doubt the legislators in our state are not truly interested in local control. Rather, they use the argument to stifle the charter school movement and preserve the teachers’ unions’ power and one size fits all education. Still, there are some compelling arguments in the article and from Democrat lawmakers themselves if severed from their known loyalties.

“I’m not opposed to charter schools per se,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27th District), a strong advocate for charter school reform. “However, that role needs to be defined and carefully laid out.” And I would add that this role needs to be defined from as local a level as possible. Each township, borough and city is going to have different needs and wants, and those differences should be recognized, instead of trying to turn our children into a mass-produced product with standardized test after standardized test.

On a personal note, I happen to think the Hua Mei Mandarin immersion school proposed in Maplewood is a cool idea, as well as other similar ideas and language immersion programs. Given both the fact that China is our biggest foreign holder of US debt, and the large segment of the population that does not speak English at all, immersion is a great idea, both for English speakers to learn other languages, and to get people who speak other languages up to speed in English. But let’s see where people are looking for solutions.

According to Ms. Lehren, “The pressure is expected to remain on the state Department of Education as it decides on the future of charters like Hua Mei in New Jersey’s suburbs.” But I oppose Trenton imposing decisions on towns just as much as I oppose them forbidding it. I am even more strongly opposed to DC doing the same. Get DC out of the way entirely, and keep Trenton’s involvement to a bare minimum. And then, let’s discuss each within our own towns how to fix what’s bad and improve what’s good in our educational systems.

That said, what’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. Are those same Democrats who favor local control of charter schools in favor of the same for the public schools? Do they favor the local boards and communities being in charge of things like tenure and privatizing education? What about testing methods?

New Jersey Assembly Democrats, while this may not have been your intent to do so, you have opened a massive, Jeffersonian can of worms on this issue, one which I hope will be discussed in counties and municipalities throughout all of New Jersey. Thank you for giving us the opportunity.

Benjamin W. Mankowski, Sr.

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