Sunday Leftovers

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Yesterday’s New York Times lead editorial, “A New Jersey Reckoning,” weighs in on the Education Law Center’s suit against the State, which attempts to enforce the original pre-recession funding formula:

The right decision is clear. The shortfall in money and other defaults amount to “deficiencies of a constitutional dimension,” which the court had warned would lead it to step in again. The justices should order the state to fully finance education as it committed to do.

Two Jersey City politicians, Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Councilman Steven Fulop, are fighting for equitable funding for public charter schools. Charters are supposed to receive 90% of cost per pupil (the local district keeps 10% for shipping and handling) but, reports The Star-Ledger, “in Jersey City for example, the school district spends $17,200 per student while charter schools received less than $10,000 per student.”

Gov. Christie’s State of the State speech is Tuesday. The Record interviews the Governor, who tells them that “there’s a bunch of things I want to get done this year. Pension and benefit reform — at the top of the list — continued fiscal discipline, and education reform are the three most important things in my view for this year.” He also spoke to the Asbury Park Press, and lists his education reform priorities as tenure reform and accountability:

To send over $900 million to the Newark school system and get less than a 50 percent graduation rate is an obscenity for those kids and their families, and it’s an obscenity for the taxpayers. We have to change that. The only way to change that is through accountability — for people to be accountable for their results.

Paterson Public Schools confessed a while ago that it has deprived 225 preschoolers with disabilities of legally-mandated services like speech therapy. Now the Education Law Center says that “dozens of elementary students” have also not received services, according to The Record, and has filed suit. The district says it’s the State DOE’s fault: as an Abbott district it has to get approval for hiring staff; it applied to hire 30 additional speech therapists, but the paperwork got lost in Trenton. The DOE begs to differ.

A NJ special education activist, Alicia Grimaldi Brzycki, makes the case in The Alternative Press for special education vouchers.

Albert Doblin, Record columnist, compares Gov. Christie’s “assault on education” and the NJEA to “a very long professional hockey match.” His editorial itself ricochets from Race to the Top to criticism of superintendent salary caps to non-renewal of 7 Executive County Superintendents to Christie’s Mike Bloomberg fetish to Disney World. Not to mention home rule:

Personally, I would do away with much, if not all, of county government. Home rule is so entrenched in the culture of New Jersey that it is impossible to eliminate local municipalities. But there is little lasting love for county government from anyone other than the local political power brokers who control much of state government and ensure that their sycophants have appointed and/or elected offices…The governor is not planning to dismantle county government. He is intent on creating chaos in public schools.

Diane D’Amico of The Press of Atlantic City explains how “the academic performance of New Jersey students living in poverty continues to lag far behind that of their nondisadvantaged peers, preliminary results of state tests given to public school students in 2010 show.”

The Wall Street Journal looks at “this new awakening” of blue-collar union workers to the fact that they are funding the pensions and health benefits of state and local government white-collar union workers:

These days the two types of worker inhabit two very different worlds. In the private sector, union workers increasingly pay for more of their own health care, and they have defined contribution pension plans such as 401(k)s. In this they have something fundamental in common even with the fat cats on Wall Street: Both need their companies to succeed.

By contrast, government unions use their political clout to elect those who set their pay: the politicians. In exchange, these unions are rewarded with contracts whose pension and health-care provisions now threaten many municipalities and states with bankruptcy. In response to the crisis, government unions demand more and higher taxes. Which of course makes people who have money less inclined to look to those states to make the investments that create jobs for, say, iron workers, electricians and construction workers.

Some of these folks are beginning to notice.

NJEA President Barbara Keshishian and Executive Director Vince Giordano discuss their commitment to maintaining pension benefits in a memo to members (sorry, no link available):

You may have seen recent news reports regarding New Jersey’s public employee pension system…Gov. Christie is expected to roll out yet another set of pension proposals in his State of the State address on Tuesday…We have met with attorneys to make sure we know what our members’ legal rights are with regard to their pensions and any proposed changes to the system…We have also met with legislators and discussed our concerns about the pension system. We have not come to any agreements with legislators or final conclusions about the best way to resolve the problems caused by both the economy and the state’s irresponsible funding practices. However, we will continue to pursue meetings with legislators in order to be part of the discussion and to advocate for solutions that protect both the stability of the pension system and your long-term security. We believe those solutions should come only from cooperation and mutual effort, and should not be simply imposed.

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1 Comment

  • kallikak, January 10, 2011 @ 6:00 am Reply

    Let's not confuse “reform” with “de-funding”.

    For most New Jersey schools, the latter term more accurately describes the likely impact of the Governor's aid cuts and pay restrictions combined with the 2% tax cap.

    Expect pushback from well-to-do, high-performing districts that receive little-or-no state aid and thus do not see the basis for meddling from Trenton.

    As they say, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it–especially if you've got no skin in the game!”

    Are you listening, Governor?

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