ORANGE, NJ -- The Black Ministers Council of New Jersey today released the following open letter regarding the New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA):
On May 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it was better to "shed a little blood than to have children graduating at a 5th grade reading level." Dr. King was stressing how far we must go in order to avoid graduating people into lifelong suffering because they lack the requisite skills to succeed.
Today, across America, urban youth are graduating — if they graduate — with the same reading level Dr. King warned us about many years ago. We have, now, a clear moral obligation to do whatever is necessary to put an end to this carnage and genocide in urban America. We have a moral obligation to act, regardless of where we believe the fault lies.
The Opportunity Scholarship Act (S-1827 / A-2810) is a solution. It is legislation that offers parents of children attending failing schools an opportunity to attend another school that might be more beneficial to them.
As people of conscience, we realize that, if a river ran through our property, and we knew seven out of 10 children going into that river were drowned by the undertow, we would be guilty of criminal negligence if we allowed a single subsequent child to enter that river. But what would we be guilty of if we actually forced our children into that same river?
As genocide takes place in our communities, I am reminded of Joe Welch's penetrating question to Joe McCarthy (1954), "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" We are debating if poor parents of children in dangerous, non-productive schools should have a choice as to whether they should be condemned to obvious, statistically proven dead-zones, or not.
If the detractors of the Opportunity Scholarship Act are sincere, they can simply call parents receiving Opportunity Scholarships in Washington, DC to hear their experiences. However, most opponents realize they won't find parents that regret being given an opportunity to choose where their children are educated.
The families enrolled in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program have learned what we want our leaders in New Jersey to learn: that "Choice Matters!"
We advocate that you "Choose Life" for our children, my friend, by helping them get an excellent education.
We have a moral imperative, as old as life itself, to protect our children. Dr. King said, "The time is always right to do the right thing." The Opportunity Scholarship Act is, clearly, the right thing.