Transported by nearly 60 charter buses, thousands of parents, students and educators rallied on the State House steps Thursday in support of the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA).

The bill (S-1872/A-2810) would fund scholarships for low-income students in the state's failing public schools. The scholarships would enable the students to attend other districts' public or private establishments. The funding would be made possible by corporations eligible to pay the corporate business tax.

Supporters urged the lame-duck legislature to act on the bill before year's end, but the issue, in some form, has been without passage for more than two decades. Governor Chris Christie touted OSA as one of his top priorities.

Among the speakers Thursday was Ariana Taveras, a senior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth.

"As I'm applying to colleges, I see the difference that it makes to go to a school that allows you the type of education that you need to make it in this world," said Taveras.

She said New Jersey needs to pass OSA so the "world can be a better place", and that's not possible if New Jersey's students aren't educated.

Authors of the legislation also spoke, calling on fellow legislature members to act on the bill.

Senator Thomas Kean (R-21) said it is unfair for school children to pay in the future for the failings of adults now.

"Let's give kids in every zip code access to a quality education," he said.

"These children look up to us for guidance," said Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-5). "If a child has failed, we have all failed. The price of leadership is responsibility. As leaders, we need to act now."

It was determined among the crowd that the bill has remained stagnant because some legislators do not want to make a big decision.

"What we're really doing is fighting the influence of unions," explained Lelia Pappas, principal at Blessed Sacrament School in Paterson. "It's going to force the legislators to make a choice. They don't want to do that."

The event was coordinated by the New Jersey School Choice Alliance.


Video by Dino Flammia