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"Vouchers have been pegged as something negative in the African-American community," Rone says. "When I explain them to people who are skeptical, I say: Look, you get vouchers. Medicare is a voucher. Social Security is a voucher. Welfare is a voucher. This is the same principle; it's the equalizer that can get your kids into good schools. And when you explain it like that, they understand and they support it."
No one on Booker's slate represents the school choice/anti-school choice divide like its candidate in the west ward. That's Ron Rice, Jr., the son of Booker's opponent, and a graduate of private schools. (Booker manages to needle Ron, Sr. for taking "his kids" out of the public school system in a way that doesn't seem to bother Ron, Jr.) Rice fell into Booker's orbit when he ran his first city council race, and he's stayed in the circle since then, even as his father took higher and more powerful roles in the James administration. "He and his father are like night and day," says Rev. Reginald Jackson, the executive director of Black Ministers of New Jersey and a school choice supporter.
Rice is a less vocal supporter of choice than Rone or James—he thinks vouchers are "one option" to consider. But they should have been considered long ago, he says, and weren't because of "the status quo politicians."
"There hasn't really been an honest discussion," he explains, taking a break from campaigning before lunch. "And that hasn't happened mainly because of the postulations of the Civil Rights generation, which sees no real institutional problems with the way public education works. But we do. Indeed, most of the people in the city of Newark who have the means to practice school choice do so. We should give more options to parents who don't have the means."