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5-8-14 In the News - State Budget Shortfall and Charter Closings
The Record - N.J. lawmakers press state treasurer for details on budget shortfall… ‘Sidamon-Eristoff told the lawmakers they should expect “significant adjustments” to Christie’s $34.4 billion budget when he comes back before the panel on May 21, but declined to detail specifics….’

NJ Spotlight - NJ ORDERS SHUTDOWN OF TWO CHARTERS, ONE OLD AND ONE NEW, IN NEWARK AND CAMDEN…Both schools reportedly failed to chalk up sufficient scores on standardized testing

The Record - N.J. lawmakers press state treasurer for details on budget shortfall… ‘Sidamon-Eristoff told the lawmakers they should expect “significant adjustments” to Christie’s $34.4 billion budget when he comes back before the panel on May 21, but declined to detail specifics….’

 

MAY 7, 2014, 11:06 AM    LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2014, 6:15 PM

BY JOHN REITMEYER

STATE HOUSE BUREAU

THE RECORD

Governor Christie’s state treasurer appeared before lawmakers Wednesday for the first time since announcing an $807 million budget shortfall last week, but he offered no new information about how the Christie administration plans to close the gap in the final weeks of the state’s fiscal year.

Instead, Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff repeated much of what Christie told reporters during a news conference last week, specifically that the gap is primarily due to an underperforming income tax, and that no spending items are off the table as options are being considered to rebalance the state’s $33 billion budget.

“We are evaluating a wide range of alternatives,” Sidamon-Eristoff told members of the Assembly Budget Committee during its meeting Wednesday.

Those words frustrated some members of the panel who are concerned if the treasurer waits until his next scheduled appearance before the committee later this month, it would leave too little time to fully consider the impact of the administration’s budget fixes.

Only about $5 billion of the budget remains unspent, including an estimated $1.6 billion payment into the public employee pension system. Some aid to local schools, colleges and college students are other sizable items that have yet to be spent.

“Why not put the options on the table and have a discussion?” asked Assemblyman Joe Cryan, D-Union.

“In four weeks, one doesn’t really discuss very much when one is forced into action,” added Committee Chair Gary Schaer, D-Passaic.

But the treasurer said the Christie administration is still in the midst of a deliberative process to determine which options are available to close the gap.

“We believe it’s appropriate to take the time to perform an extensive due diligence,” the treasurer said.

For the last several weeks, lawmakers have been reviewing the $34.4 billion spending plan Christie proposed for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Since the state constitution requires a balanced budget, the $807 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is a major factor in their budget deliberations.

Sidamon-Eristoff told the lawmakers they should expect “significant adjustments” to Christie’s $34.4 billion budget when he comes back before the panel on May 21, but declined to detail specifics. Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, urged him to share more information.

“Today would be a great day for extensive engagement,” Singleton said.

But the treasurer repeated his earlier comments that the Christie administration is still looking at its options.

“Again, I think it is incumbent upon us to do due diligence,” he said.

Republicans on the panel praised Sidamon-Eristoff for taking time and being deliberative.

“I appreciate you playing it close to the vest right,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Burlington.

“I encourage you to take the time with the administration to make sure the difficult decisions that we have to make do not have unintended consequences,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, R-Morris.

The treasurer did hold up the more than $2 billion in spending cuts Christie enacted in 2010 when he took office amid recession as a model for what could be expected when he comes back before the committee.

Those cuts included $820 million in education aid. Singleton warned that if school aid cuts will be looked to again, it would have an effect on local property taxpayers who fund school budgets.

Cryan also criticized $32 million in new revenue the administration is expecting to collect by increasing several fees and fines. They include increased air pollution permitting fees and higher motor vehicle fines.

He and Singleton also pressed the treasurer on the issue of revenue projections, citing examples of the Christie administration having to make midyear cuts and budget adjustments, which was noted as a factor in recent credit ratings downgrades announced by two of the three major Wall Street ratings agencies.

“Many of us are troubled by three consecutive years of [missed] revenue projections,” Singleton said.

Sidamon-Eristoff said most of the $807 million gap, about 85 percent, was directly attributable to the Department of Treasury not guessing right the effect of new federal tax rates enacted for the 2013 tax year. To address the “fiscal cliff,” President Obama and Congress lifted Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Because New Jersey relies heavily on its highest income earners, it assumed final payments in April from those taxpayers would be higher than they were. Treasury saw some of the problem coming in February when it the revenue projection, but did not realize the full force.

“We believe the risks were balanced,” said Charles Steindel, Treasury’s chief economist. “We were unfortunately incorrect.”

Email: reitmeyer@northjersey.com

 

NJ Spotlight - NJ ORDERS SHUTDOWN OF TWO CHARTERS, ONE OLD AND ONE NEW, IN NEWARK AND CAMDEN

 

JOHN MOONEY | MAY 8, 2014

…Both schools reportedly failed to chalk up sufficient scores on standardized testing

 

The Christie administration quietly told two charter schools over the last month that they must close, one of them among the most established in Newark and the other a brand-new school in Camden.

The first to be signed by acting commissioner David Hespe, the decisions were not publicly announced, but came in letters to each of the schools as they were finishing up the year. The schools must close by the end of June.

RELATED LINKS

Greater Newark Charter School Non-Renewal Letter

City Invincible Charter Revocation Letter

In both cases, the shutdown orders were largely due to student test scores below those in the host district, even if for just one year, and the lack of necessary steps to improve them, according to the letters sent by Hespe.

For the Greater Newark Charter School, opened in 2000 and in its 14th year, it may not have been wholly unexpected as the school had been on probation and a decision on its charter’s five-year renewal was delayed since March.

The leader of the City Invincible Charter School in Camden said it came as more of a surprise, as the school was only in its second year.

The elementary school had also been on probation, and John Frangipani, its principal, acknowledged the school had a difficult first year with its 275 students posting some of the lowest achievement levels in the state.

Just 11 percent of students passed in language arts and 23 percent in math, both below the Camden school district.

But Frangipani said new programs and interventions in the second year had yielded results in benchmark assessments aligned with the state’s annual tests, and he was confident there would be significant progress as the students started taking the NJASK this month.

“I think there would be have been real growth,” he said yesterday, as the school considered whether to appeal. “Too bad we’ll never see those scores if the school isn’t here.”

Hespe in his letter to the school’s board acknowledged some changes had been made, but said they had not yielded the required results.

“The school’s administration failed to make the necessary changes to dramatically improve student learning and outcomes at the school,” Hespe wrote in the May 1 letter.

In an interview last night, Frangipani said he knew the odds were long in the city, where larger charter organizations are moving in.

The KIPP, Uncommon Schools and Mastery networks each have at least preliminary approval to open up to five schools in Camden over the coming years under the Urban Hope Act.

Frangipani said Uncommon had even called looking for possible recruits before the school was even told it was closed.

“We’re on the outside looking in, I get that,” he said. “We’re a small operation, and the state wants to bring in the larger ones with the track records. But at least give us a fair shot to prove ourselves.”

Frangipani said the school was considering an appeal, but he knew it would difficult to win in a state where the courts have granted commissioners wide discretion on charter decisions.

Efforts to reach the leaders of the Greater Newark Charter School last night were unsuccessful.

 

THE RECORD

Governor Christie’s state treasurer appeared before lawmakers Wednesday for the first time since announcing an $807 million budget shortfall last week, but he offered no new information about how the Christie administration plans to close the gap in the final weeks of the state’s fiscal year.

Instead, Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff repeated much of what Christie told reporters during a news conference last week, specifically that the gap is primarily due to an underperforming income tax, and that no spending items are off the table as options are being considered to rebalance the state’s $33 billion budget.

“We are evaluating a wide range of alternatives,” Sidamon-Eristoff told members of the Assembly Budget Committee during its meeting Wednesday.

Those words frustrated some members of the panel who are concerned if the treasurer waits until his next scheduled appearance before the committee later this month, it would leave too little time to fully consider the impact of the administration’s budget fixes.

Only about $5 billion of the budget remains unspent, including an estimated $1.6 billion payment into the public employee pension system. Some aid to local schools, colleges and college students are other sizable items that have yet to be spent.

“Why not put the options on the table and have a discussion?” asked Assemblyman Joe Cryan, D-Union.

“In four weeks, one doesn’t really discuss very much when one is forced into action,” added Committee Chair Gary Schaer, D-Passaic.

But the treasurer said the Christie administration is still in the midst of a deliberative process to determine which options are available to close the gap.

“We believe it’s appropriate to take the time to perform an extensive due diligence,” the treasurer said.

For the last several weeks, lawmakers have been reviewing the $34.4 billion spending plan Christie proposed for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Since the state constitution requires a balanced budget, the $807 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is a major factor in their budget deliberations.

Sidamon-Eristoff told the lawmakers they should expect “significant adjustments” to Christie’s $34.4 billion budget when he comes back before the panel on May 21, but declined to detail specifics. Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, urged him to share more information.

“Today would be a great day for extensive engagement,” Singleton said.

But the treasurer repeated his earlier comments that the Christie administration is still looking at its options.

“Again, I think it is incumbent upon us to do due diligence,” he said.

Republicans on the panel praised Sidamon-Eristoff for taking time and being deliberative.

“I appreciate you playing it close to the vest right,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Burlington.

“I encourage you to take the time with the administration to make sure the difficult decisions that we have to make do not have unintended consequences,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, R-Morris.

The treasurer did hold up the more than $2 billion in spending cuts Christie enacted in 2010 when he took office amid recession as a model for what could be expected when he comes back before the committee.

Those cuts included $820 million in education aid. Singleton warned that if school aid cuts will be looked to again, it would have an effect on local property taxpayers who fund school budgets.

Cryan also criticized $32 million in new revenue the administration is expecting to collect by increasing several fees and fines. They include increased air pollution permitting fees and higher motor vehicle fines.

He and Singleton also pressed the treasurer on the issue of revenue projections, citing examples of the Christie administration having to make midyear cuts and budget adjustments, which was noted as a factor in recent credit ratings downgrades announced by two of the three major Wall Street ratings agencies.

“Many of us are troubled by three consecutive years of [missed] revenue projections,” Singleton said.

Sidamon-Eristoff said most of the $807 million gap, about 85 percent, was directly attributable to the Department of Treasury not guessing right the effect of new federal tax rates enacted for the 2013 tax year. To address the “fiscal cliff,” President Obama and Congress lifted Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Because New Jersey relies heavily on its highest income earners, it assumed final payments in April from those taxpayers would be higher than they were. Treasury saw some of the problem coming in February when it the revenue projection, but did not realize the full force.

“We believe the risks were balanced,” said Charles Steindel, Treasury’s chief economist. “We were unfortunately incorrect.”

Email: reitmeyer@northjersey.com

 

NJ Spotlight - NJ ORDERS SHUTDOWN OF TWO CHARTERS, ONE OLD AND ONE NEW, IN NEWARK AND CAMDEN

 

JOHN MOONEY | MAY 8, 2014

…Both schools reportedly failed to chalk up sufficient scores on standardized testing

 

The Christie administration quietly told two charter schools over the last month that they must close, one of them among the most established in Newark and the other a brand-new school in Camden.

The first to be signed by acting commissioner David Hespe, the decisions were not publicly announced, but came in letters to each of the schools as they were finishing up the year. The schools must close by the end of June.

RELATED LINKS

Greater Newark Charter School Non-Renewal Letter

City Invincible Charter Revocation Letter

In both cases, the shutdown orders were largely due to student test scores below those in the host district, even if for just one year, and the lack of necessary steps to improve them, according to the letters sent by Hespe.

For the Greater Newark Charter School, opened in 2000 and in its 14th year, it may not have been wholly unexpected as the school had been on probation and a decision on its charter’s five-year renewal was delayed since March.

The leader of the City Invincible Charter School in Camden said it came as more of a surprise, as the school was only in its second year.

The elementary school had also been on probation, and John Frangipani, its principal, acknowledged the school had a difficult first year with its 275 students posting some of the lowest achievement levels in the state.

Just 11 percent of students passed in language arts and 23 percent in math, both below the Camden school district.

But Frangipani said new programs and interventions in the second year had yielded results in benchmark assessments aligned with the state’s annual tests, and he was confident there would be significant progress as the students started taking the NJASK this month.

“I think there would be have been real growth,” he said yesterday, as the school considered whether to appeal. “Too bad we’ll never see those scores if the school isn’t here.”

Hespe in his letter to the school’s board acknowledged some changes had been made, but said they had not yielded the required results.

“The school’s administration failed to make the necessary changes to dramatically improve student learning and outcomes at the school,” Hespe wrote in the May 1 letter.

In an interview last night, Frangipani said he knew the odds were long in the city, where larger charter organizations are moving in.

The KIPP, Uncommon Schools and Mastery networks each have at least preliminary approval to open up to five schools in Camden over the coming years under the Urban Hope Act.

Frangipani said Uncommon had even called looking for possible recruits before the school was even told it was closed.

“We’re on the outside looking in, I get that,” he said. “We’re a small operation, and the state wants to bring in the larger ones with the track records. But at least give us a fair shot to prove ourselves.”

Frangipani said the school was considering an appeal, but he knew it would difficult to win in a state where the courts have granted commissioners wide discretion on charter decisions.

Efforts to reach the leaders of the Greater Newark Charter School last night were unsuccessful.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828