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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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6-26-14 Trenton to vote on FY'15 Budget Plus Mryiad of Bills Today - Christie Has Last Word Veto Power
NJTV News - Christie Chides Lawmakers, Hints at Tougher Pension Reforms Ahead

“...All the bills get passed in either June or December. You will see between tomorrow and Monday a couple of hundred bills passed, that they’ll put on my desk. Since January, I’ve maybe gotten two dozen bills sent to my desk,” ... “Let me guarantee you what’s going to happen, the same thing that has happened every time they have sent me an income tax increase in the nearly five years I’ve been governor. I will veto it...”

NJ Spotlight - School-Reform Legislation, Education Aid Among Items on Year-End Agenda...Last-minute votes could delay Common Core-related tests, reconfigure impact on teacher evaluations

...Overall, the $9 billion in direct state aid to districts is unlikely to change much at this point, with the vast majority of local districts’ budgets already adopted... But Democrats made some late changes this week that could open up a few new avenues of funding. For instance, a $5 million fund proposed by Christie for “innovative” programs had been eliminated, replaced by a smaller $2.5 million pot of money called the Education Reform Implementation Grant Program that will go to specific purposes that are at the forefront of the Christie education agenda. A bill already passed by the Assembly would delay use of the tests for up to two years while a state task force reviewed...After the Senate education committee declined to endorse the measure, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) this week nonetheless posted the bill for a full Senate vote today.But a twist came yesterday, when Christie himself said at one of his town hall-style meetings that a measure could be offered in coming days to address the testing concerns, raising the possibility of a unilateral executive order or regulatory change...but state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) repeated yesterday that she has been pressing the administration to make a change in the consequences of the bill, including the possibility of reducing the share that test scores will carry in teacher evaluations in the first year. That change could be done by regulation, without legislative approval...'

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: ‘Score Sheet’ Tracks Twists and Turns in Tale of Two Budgets...Annual analysis by OLS offers unbiased breakdown of spending plans proposed by Legislature, governor ...'The last word: Gov. Chris Christie has steadfastly said he won’t approve any budget provisions that include a tax increase, all but assuring a veto of the final budget and a showdown in the coming days. He could issue a conditional veto that trims only certain items from the final budget legislation.'

Star Ledger - N.J. POLITICS ROUNDUP...During a town hall meeting in Haddon Heights, Christie said he will veto any tax increases sent to him as part of a Democratic state budget plan...Meanwhile 'He said he plans to make an announcement in the coming days on how the state will move forward on school testing.'

NJTV News - Christie Chides Lawmakers, Hints at Tougher Pension Reforms Ahead

6-25-14

 

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by David Cruz, Correspondent

On the day when his deficit reduction gambit faced a court challenge, Gov. Chris Christie was in Haddon Heights, where he mocked the legislature for cramming like college kids the night before an exam only to come up with what he said was their usual answer to budget issues — a tax hike.

“All the bills get passed in either June or December. You will see between tomorrow and Monday a couple of hundred bills passed, that they’ll put on my desk. Since January, I’ve maybe gotten two dozen bills sent to my desk,” he chuckled. “Let me guarantee you what’s going to happen, the same thing that has happened every time they have sent me an income tax increase in the nearly five years I’ve been governor. I will veto it.”

In front of a friendly — if not entirely enthusiastic — audience in an air-conditioned gym that still sweltered, the governor defended his controversial decision to cut payments to the state pension system as necessary and a way to start the conversation about further reform to the system.

“It’s always happier to give out the candy,” said the governor. “Everybody smiles at ya, and they’re real happy and they don’t yell and scream and they don’t scream at you and give you a hard time. They just say, ‘Thank you governor, that’s so great.’ I’d like to do that but that’s not what you elected me for.”

Christie said he will unveil new proposals for the pension program this summer, adding, “When I come out with my pension plan, everyone will hate it.”

The reforms could include — but not be limited to — an end to the defined benefit plans in favor of another, as yet unspecified, type of plan and a scaling back of what he called the state’s “Cadillac” health benefits.

“[It will mean] greater contributions by employees, greater contributions from the government over the long haul and it’s probably going to mean trying to continue to have really good results from an investments perspective,” he said, adding, “Ultimately we’re going to have to decide at what point do we cut off a defined benefit pension.”

It was a call for stiff medicine in front of an audience that included a lot of retirees but not many, apparently, collecting a pension from the state. Some union supporters waited to give the governor a piece of their minds outside but seemed to wilt in the heat as the governor drove on by.

For all the helter-skelter at the State House, the governor’s tone here today was pretty casual. That could be partly because he knows that, ultimately, he has the power of the line item veto over the budget, but it could also have a little bit to do with the fact that in New Hampshire and Iowa, nobody is talking about the New Jersey state budget.

 

NJ Spotlight - School-Reform Legislation, Education Aid Among Items on Year-End Agenda

John Mooney | June 26, 2014

Last-minute votes could delay Common Core-related tests, reconfigure impact on teacher evaluations

 

Up against the state budget deadline, the Legislature today will consider a few last-minute items that could prove pivotal in the debate over school reform.

The Democrat-led Legislature is expected today to decide on a state budget for fiscal 2015 in which school funding accounts for more than one-third of the spending, at more than $12 billion of a $34.1 billion budget.

Related Links

S-2154, Education Reform Review Task Force Legislation

S-2264, Extension of the Urban Hope Act

The vast bulk of that will remain intact, whether or not Gov. Chris Christie agrees with the Democrats’ budget as proposed.

The most contentious debate -- over additional taxes on the wealthy and businesses -- is unlikely at this point to much on education spending.

But the Democrats’ budget nonetheless includes a few other tweaks in state spending for schools that are consequential. And the Legislature is also set to decide on some other contentious bills, including one to delay the consequences of new state testing tied to the Common Core State Standards.

Here are the three big education-related questions as this legislative session enters its stretch run:

+1) How much will school aid be impacted by the last-minute budget jockeying?

Overall, the $9 billion in direct state aid to districts is unlikely to change much at this point, with the vast majority of local districts’ budgets already adopted.

Christie had proposed -- for virtually every district – state aid increase of less than 1 percent overall, equating to about $20 per student.

But Democrats made some late changes this week that could open up a few new avenues of funding. For instance, a $5 million fund proposed by Christie for “innovative” programs had been eliminated, replaced by a smaller $2.5 million pot of money called the Education Reform Implementation Grant Program that will go to specific purposes that are at the forefront of the Christie education agenda.

Of that, $1.25 million will be made available to districts in grants to help pay for training of administrators and teachers in the state’s new teacher-evaluation system under the tenure reform law known as TEACHNJ.

The remaining $1.25 million will fund a second grant program for districts needing additional resources to implement new state online testing -- known as the PARCC or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers – to begin in 2015.

The new fund is just one of a few changes in the state budget in the Democrats’ plan, which also includes $4.5 million more for non-public schools and an additional $3 million to help pay for charter schools.

The non-public school aid has been a pet issue for state Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), chairman of the Assembly’s budget committee.

+2) Will the Legislature force Christie to slow down the consequences of PARCC and the new Common Core standards?

It’s been one of the biggest dramas of this spring’s legislative deliberations, with momentum building for several bills that would slow, if not stop, the state’s use of new testing tied to the Common Core standards in evaluating teachers and schools. The use of the new PARCC testing, now only field-tested by the state, is scheduled to start in 2015.

A bill already passed by the Assembly would delay use of the tests for up to two years while a state task force reviewed implementation of the standardized exams. After the Senate education committee declined to endorse the measure, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) this week nonetheless posted the bill for a full Senate vote today.

But a twist came yesterday, when Christie himself said at one of his town hall-style meetings that a measure could be offered in coming days to address the testing concerns, raising the possibility of a unilateral executive order or regulatory change.

Further details were unavailable, but state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) repeated yesterday that she has been pressing the administration to make a change in the consequences of the bill, including the possibility of reducing the share that test scores will carry in teacher evaluations in the first year. That change could be done by regulation, without legislative approval.

Ruiz said it would address the state’s obligation, under federal regulations, to retain at least some use of student performance measures, while providing time for districts to adjust. The federal requirements have been the administration’s main defense of the current rules.

“I am committed to working with the leadership and the administration to come up with a compromise that protects teachers, students and schools,” Ruiz said in an interview.

+3) What about Camden school reforms and other unfinished business?

There are a couple of other pending matters on the Legislature’s docket for tomorrow, including an 11th-hour bill that would further loosen the reins on the Urban Hope Act in Camden.

But s few other items will now move to the fall, if not beyond.

The most prominent is legislation to rewrite the state’s nearly 20-tyear-old law dictating how charter schools are approved and monitored. There have been several bills filed with proposals for revamping the charter law, but none have been acted on, even in committee.

One exception is the Urban Hope bill, submitted on Monday, to extend the application deadline under the 2011 law that permits new hybrid charter schools in Camden, Trenton and Newark.

The proposed extension would only apply to Camden, which has fueled speculation that more projects might be on the way. Three applicants have already received at least preliminary approval for up to 15 new schools in Camden.

The bill would also extend an early retirement offer to Camden teachers and staff who are facing more than 300 layoffs in the state-run district. The last day of work for the laid-off employees is Friday, but the bill help remaining teachers and administrators in the case of potential future layoffs, say supporters.

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: ‘Score Sheet’ Tracks Twists and Turns in Tale of Two Budgets

John Mooney | June 26, 2014

Annual analysis by OLS offers unbiased breakdown of spending plans proposed by Legislature, governor

What it is: The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services annually breaks down precise details in the budget voted on by the state Legislature, down to each line item and language change, compared to what the governor proposed in his budget message.

What it means: Known as the budget “score sheet,” it is the document that legislators peruse in making their final determinations on the annual budget. Every last dollar change is laid out, every difference in language between the Legislature’s bill and that proposed by Gov. Chris Christie in his budget message this winter is explained. With the Legislature expected to work long hours today to finalize its budget, it will surely be a well-read document.

Related Links

OLS Budget Score Sheet

OLS Budget Language Table

Two documents: The OLS release both a numerical breakdown of every line-item change and a breakdown of language changes. Healthcare items provide a good example.

Healthcare budget highlights: The budget includes several increases related to the Democrats’ healthcare priorities. These include $2.4 million for a pilot program to increase collaboration between psychiatrists, primary care doctors and social workers in Bergen County; $1 million for the State Commission on Cancer Research: $20 million for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, and $7.5 million for family planning services. The budget also includes an additional $10.9 million for nursing homes.

Healthcare language highlights: The Legislature also added budget language that affects healthcare. It would require the Department of Human Services to collaborate with county corrections agencies to maximize Medicaid enrollment. It also would require the state to offer health insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act to residents who previously received New Jersey FamilyCare Advantage, a low-cost health plan that was cancelled earlier this year because it wasn’t ACA-compliant.

The last word: Gov. Chris Christie has steadfastly said he won’t approve any budget provisions that include a tax increase, all but assuring a veto of the final budget and a showdown in the coming days. He could issue a conditional veto that trims only certain items from the final budget legislation.

 


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