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12-12-14 Senate Judiciary Committe Unanimous in Confirming David Hespe NJ Education Commissioner

GSCS Note: David Hespe is not only extremely knowledgeable of NJ’s education needs and complex policy issues, he also cares deeply about the educational well-being of all New Jersey’s public school children. GSCS says “welcome and glad to have you back” Dave.

 

NJTV Michael Aron - Senate Confirms Education Commissioner Hespe

12-11-14

The anti-stalking bill was just one of many issues up for consideration at the State House today. After nine months, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for acting Education Commissioner David Hespe. NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that Hespe sailed through the confirmation hearing with a 12-0 vote to make him the full education commissioner.

“People know him, people like him. He was education commissioner under Christie Whitman from 1999 to 2001. He’s been in the game here in Trenton for 20 years. He’s a familiar quantity and that showed today,” said Aron.

During the confirmation hearing, Hespe was questioned about several issues. Aron said that Hespe was asked about charter schools, failing urban school districts and the PARCC test. He was also asked about superintendent salary caps.

Aron said that Sen. Bob Smith brought up an idea that Sen. Richard Codey has proposed pushing the start of the school day to a later time for adolescents. According to Aron, Hespe embraced the idea and said that it has to be done.

NJSpotlight[LS1]  - At Senate Confirmation Hearing, Hespe Takes Some Tough Questions…Topics acting commissioner tackles: Abbott v. Burke, salary caps, state-takeover districts, school choice and, inevitably, Cami Anderson

John Mooney | December 12, 2014

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David Hespe’s qualifications to be confirmed as state education commissioner were never much of an issue; afterall, he held the job a decade ago.

But his confirmation hearing before the Senate judiciary committee yesterday still came with some pointed questions as to his positions and to those of his boss, Gov. Chris Christie, that may not have swayed votes but certainly added to the debate.

Related Links

After Nine-Month Delay, Hespe Likely to Face Tough Questioning

In the end, the committee voted unanimously to recommend confirmation for Hespe, presumably when the Senate meets next on Monday.

The vote will be more procedural than anything else, removing Hespe’s tag as “acting commissioner” but not much changing his job.

Still, he faced questions on several of the tough issues he confronts in that job, from the state’s ongoing takeover of its most troubled districts to salary caps for superintendents statewide.

Here were a few of the exchanges, including some candid admissions from the commissioner that not everything has gone quite as planned.

Cardinale v. Hespe

While the appointee of a Republican governor, Hespe probably faced his toughest questioning from one of the Senate’s most conservative members, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen).

At one point, Cardinale said his vote was no means assured because of Hespe’s (and Christie’s) support for the Common Core State Standards, the national curriculum that has become a lightening rod for both the right and the left.

But Cardinale went especially hard at the Abbott v. Burke school-equity rulings that have largely dictated the state’s school funding for the past 40 years, eliciting from Hespe some telling comments both for and against.

When asked by Cardinale whether he thought Abbott had been a success or failure, Hespe hedged at first, calling it a “tough” call.

He went on to say that the successes have been significant, especially about the preschool mandates from the court that every three- and four-year-old in the 31 affected districts be provided high-quality programs.

But Hespe then said that other programmatic successes have been more elusive, in part a failure of philosophy but also economic times that have prevented the state from funding the programs to the court’s full mandate.

“It is hard to say that we have seen the gains in leaps and bounds,” Hespe said.

“New Jersey was at the forefront in the litigation [over school equity], but at what point do you say you have to do something different?” he said. “We have not seen what we need to see, and it has lasted a long, long time.”

Still, in closing, Hespe didn’t take Cardinale’s bait to attack the court outright for getting involved in school finance the first place.

But he said the executive branch serves to implement the laws enacted by the legislature and, at least at times, adjudicated by the courts. “Ultimately, it is all three branches of government,” he said.

Superintendent Salary Caps

The policy was put in place before Hespe took office, but it may prove to be one of his stickiest challenges: Christie’s unilateral caps on superintendent pay.

Enacted in 2011, the scaled caps topping at no more than $175,000 -- the governor’s salary -- for most districts have been widely criticized and challenged by local boards who say it has decimated school leadership in the state. Arguably, dozens of school superintendents have left the job prematurely instead of facing all but certain pay cuts.

When pressed yesterday by senators as to the merits of the caps, Hespe made no commitment but said the department was about to review the policy as a whole. The regulations effectively expire next year, leaving the administration at a crossroads to whether to extend or adjust the caps, or even end them altogether.

‘We will start that review in the next couple of months, and we will look at all the issues,” he said.

He said there had been some benefits to the caps and the turnover they have brought, including the opening up of jobs to a more diverse pool of candidates. But he also conceded that veteran leaders have been lost, including to neighboring states without the limits.

Other Issues

These were hardly the only issues brought before Hespe, as senators raised a wide range of specific topics to take up with the governor’s point person on education.

The 180-day school calendar, the length of the school, the place of charter schools and school funding as a whole were all lines of questioning.

One of the more pervasive was the status of the state’s popular public-school-choice program, which started as a small pilot more than a decade ago but has expanded to include more than 100 districts and ballooned costs to the state fivefold.

“That is clearly not sustainable,” Hespe said. “We need to go back to the original intent and look at the fiscal reality, and see what we can do for the children that really need to be served.”

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) is not a member of the judiciary committee, but she was vested a seat yesterday for the testimony given her role as chair of the Senate’s education panel.

And she did not pull her punches about what she thought were the shortcomings, if not outright failures, of the state’s operation of Newark schools. Newark is one of four districts under the states control, but as a Newark resident, Ruiz cited continued problems under state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson.

“State takeover is not synonymous with state success,” she said.

At another point, Ruiz said that state takeovers have lost sight of the partnerships that are required with the local community. “In the past, that has not been the case,” she said.

Hespe said that the department has put heightened attention both in supporting the takeover districts and in holding them accountable, including a senior staff person dedicated to those districts.

 

Politickernj - Senate Judiciary confirms acting commissioner Hespe for DOE position

By Chase Brush | 12/11/14 3:39pm

 

TRENTON — Acting Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe inched closer to dropping the “acting” from his title today after a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee saw members unanimously release his nomination to the post.

While he was grilled on a number of issues, from the increasing reliance on charter schools in the state to standardized testing to finances the success of its Abbott districts, Hespe was praised by most members of the committee for the “expertise” and “professionalism” he’s brought to the position.

Appointed to the position by Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year, Hespe has served as acting commissioner for the last nine months. His prior service at the Department included working as the Education Commissioner from 1999 through 2001, Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Executive Services from 1997 to 1998, and Chief of Staff during the first term of the Christie Administration.

He also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Burlington County College, as an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Rowan University’s College of Education, and as the former Assistant Superintendent and later Interim Superintendant of Schools for the Willingboro School District.

Committee members said New Jersey’s educational landscape is staggered, with some schools performing well above the national average and some performing well below. Some of the greatest problems Hespe and the DOE have faced in recent years include curbing the school performance on the low end of that spectrum, mostly in places like Newark and Camden, where state-directed programs to reorganize school districts and improve educational quality have led to controversy between residents and city and state officials.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), who also chairs the Senate Education Committee, lauded Hespe for his work in those areas, but also offered some pointed questions about what exactly the state is doing to help fix these problems.

“It is so inherently clear at the mismanagement in certain districts,” she said, “that I have to ask — when is the madness going to stop?”

Hespe said the department’s “greatest challenge continues to be improving academic outcomes while at the same time remaining accountable to taxpayers for the misuse of their dollars,” but that the state is working on holding superintendents of under-performing school districts, like those in Newark and Paterson, accountable.

Lawmakers and legislators have called on Hespe recently to intervene in the operations of some of those school districts, many of which have been plagued by controversy and allegations of misconduct.

Approximately a third of the state’s budget goes to the Department of Education, committee members said.

Read more at Senate Judiciary confirms acting commissioner Hespe for DOE position | New Jersey News, Politics, Opinion, and Analysis
Follow us: @politickernj on Twitter | PolitickerNJ on Facebook

 

The Record -  Acting N.J. Education Commissioner David Hespe supported in vote by state Senate panel

December 11, 2014, 8:30 PM    Last updated: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 8:43 PM

By HANNAN ADELY

staff writer | 

The Record

 

TRENTON – Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe moved a step closer to securing the state’s top education job, with a unanimous vote in his favor Thursday by a state Senate panel.

Hespe, who has held the interim post since March, told lawmakers that his greatest challenge was “improving academic outcomes while at the same time being accountable to taxpayers.” His nomination comes as New Jersey implements new teacher evaluation methods and new online tests in a school system that serves about 1.4 million students.

The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Hespe at the confirmation hearing. His answers:

Superintendent salary caps: Hespe said he would look at the impact of the salary cap — which critics say has caused superintendents to flee the state — when it comes up for review.

School choice: The state needs to freeze a school choice program, which allows students to attend certain districts outside their own at no extra cost to their families, Hespe said.

District consolidation: The state will tap community leaders to host local discussions on the merging of school districts and will pay for feasibility studies, Hespe said.

School start times: Hespe cited “solid” research that early school start times could be harmful for high school students.

Virtual school days: Hespe said he didn’t support the use of remote online instruction to replace snow days because standards and legislation haven’t been established.

Committee members praised Hespe. Education groups representing school boards, administrators, activists, and teachers also supported him. “He knows the strengths and weaknesses of the state education system and he knows how public schools work,” said Lawrence Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

A few members of the public were critical of Hespe’s embrace of Common Core academic standards and their new online tests.

Montvale resident Carolee Adams, who heads the Eagle Forum of New Jersey, a conservative interest group, asked the committee to delay the vote on Hespe’s nomination so the public can see how he manages the new tests and how a task force that Hespe leads will review the tests and standards.

“The stakes are too high for a nomination this vital to be granted prematurely,” she said.

Hespe replaced the former commissioner, Chris Cerf, who stepped down in February. Hespe was commissioner from 1999 through 2001. He was Cerf’s chief of staff and is a former Burlington County College president.

The commissioner earns $141,000 a year, an amount that is set by state law. The Senate is expected to hold a full vote on his appointment next week.

Email: adely@northjersey.com


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