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1-17-12 New '215th Legislative Session' begins today - Education & Related Issues
Wall Street Journal - Christie Pledges School Aid Battle…New Jersey Governor Seeks to Remake Supreme Court in Effort to Change Education Funding for Poor and Urban Districts

Asbury Park Press - Christie still considering school election changes...Has until Tuesday [Jan. 17, 2012] to sign measure

NJ Spotlight - New Session, Charter School Law Still Broken?...As Christie administration decides on new charters, debate continues about how to fix 15-year-old law

Politickernj.com - Bramnick new Minority Leader

Wall Street Journal - Christie Pledges School Aid Battle…New Jersey Governor Seeks to Remake Supreme Court in Effort to Change Education Funding for Poor and Urban Districts

Asbury Park Press - Christie still considering school election changes

Has until Tuesday [Jan.  17, 2012] to sign measure


NJ Spotlight - New Session, Charter School Law Still Broken?...As Christie administration decides on new charters, debate continues about how to fix 15-year-old law



Asbury Park Press - Christie still considering school election changes

Has until Tuesday [Jan. 17,2012] to sign measure

10:37 AM, Jan. 15, 2012 |

Written by Jason Method, Statehouse Bureau


Gov. Chris Christie said in Camden on Thursday that he had yet to decide whether he would sign a bill that allows for school board and budget elections to be moved to November.

Christie said the bill would have been better if it moved all school elections to the November general election, rather than creating an opt-in provision.

Christie said he believed that special interests would pressure school boards and municipalities not to move the election.

He noted that some half the registered voters will cast ballots in the presidential election this November, three times more than typically vote in April school elections.

“Seems to me, elections are better when more people vote,” he said. “But that argument hasn’t carried a lot of weight in Trenton for a long time.”

The school elections bill, which was supported by the state’s largest teachers union and the New Jersey School Boards Association, allows school boards, municipalities or a petition by 15 percent of the registered voters to move the election.

School districts that do move the election will not face budget votes if their fiscal plan remains at or under the state’s property tax cap.

Administration officials have quietly expressed concerns about the logistics and costs of holding two sets of school elections, not to mention the inconsistencies that could confuse voters.

Christie has until Tuesday to decide on the bill.


Wall Street Journal - Christie Pledges School Aid Battle…New Jersey Governor Seeks to Remake Supreme Court in Effort to Change Education Funding for Poor and Urban Districts


TRENTON—Gov. Chris Christie plans a new challenge to a court-ordered state education funding formula that has provided billions of dollars in extra funding to poverty-stricken schools within the so-called Abbott districts.While he didn't discuss specifics of how he would continue the fight, Mr. Christie said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he would nominate two state Supreme Court judges this spring who won't "grossly" overstep their powers—as he argues the court has by ordering more school funding.

Christie's To-Do List

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told The Wall Street Journal about his 2012 agenda:

·        Pass a package of education bills that address teacher tenure, merit pay and scholarships

·        Cut income taxes this year or next, if the fiscal situation allows

Pr  Provide more support to higher education


"Eventually, the court is going to admit it was wrong or I'm going to be able to change the court so that the new members are not as tethered to the Abbott decision," Mr. Christie said during a 45-minute interview with the Journal ahead of his State of the State speech Tuesday. "They will be able to admit on behalf of their predecessors that they were wrong."

Mr. Christie was referring to a 3-2 decision in May by the state Supreme Court that the governor's cuts to education funding were unconstitutional. The court ordered him to send about $500 million more to 31 of New Jersey's poorest and most underfunded school districts.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Christie's budget violated the state constitution by shortchanging the school funding plan adopted by the Legislature in 2008 and affirmed by the court in 2009. The case, Abbott v. Burke—a legal challenge filed more than three decades ago—has led to the state pouring billions of additional dollars into some of its poorest districts over the years.

Last year, Mr. Christie wasn't shy in expressing his disappointment in the court ruling, but said he would comply with it. He said it was up to the state Legislature to fund the mandate.

Still, the issue has continued to simmer for Mr. Christie, and he told the Journal Friday that the ruling was "a bad decision."

"I'm not going to back off," he said. "This is going to be a continuing fight between me and the Supreme Court."

Mr. Christie will have to address school funding again in his 2012-13 budget, which he will unveil in February.

Mr. Christie hinted Friday that some districts protected by the court could feel shortchanged again, even if it means another legal showdown. "I'm going to continue to look for ways to bring a greater sense of fairness to school funding, and if I wind up getting sued again, we'll see what happens," he said.

David Sciarra of the Education Law Center, the Newark-based advocacy group that brought the lawsuit against the state, said the court has already upheld the school spending plan, and Mr. Christie's energies would be better directed toward providing "adequate and equitable funding" to all New Jersey public schools.

"We need to move past this kind of discussion about the courts. That's over," he said.

Still, Mr. Christie stands to have new power to shape future decisions made by the state's highest court. Mr. Christie could nominate two new Republicans to the court in March to fill seats held by Democrats, potentially tipping the traditionally liberal-leaning court toward a GOP-majority.

The seven-member court currently has three Democrats, an Independent and two Republicans, one of whom Mr. Christie appointed last year. The seventh seat is vacant, but was previously held by a Democrat, former Justice John Wallace.

Mr. Christie has the power to change the direction of the judiciary for years to come with his two appointments, said Brigid Harrison, professor of political science and law at Montclair State University.

"The ramification of changing the composition of the court is enormous. It will be felt well beyond his tenure in office," Ms. Harrison said.

Three of the current justices, for example, won't have to retire until 2022.

A more conservative court could provide a check on the state Legislature—controlled by Democrats—on a broad array of issues, Ms. Harrison said. The state's highest court routinely handles cases on sensitive issues such as abortion, the environment and labor law.

Mr. Christie said that, in addition to education funding, the Supreme Court overstepped its role in mandating that municipalities build affordable housing. The cost of the decision to taxpayers, he said, is almost "incalculable."

"I'm hopeful that I'll be able to appoint justices who understand their job is to interpret the law, not to make the law, and to interpret the constitution, and not amend the constitution from the bench. That's what the Supreme Court has done over and over again," he said, referring to education spending and affordable housing.

Mr. Christie's judicial nominations must be approved by Senate Democrats, who have been in an escalating battle with the governor over other state appointments.

Asked about the governor's future nominations, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Union County Democrat on the Senate's Judiciary Committee, said the governor "doesn't object to the Supreme Court making policy, as long as it's his policy it's making."


NJ Spotlight - New Session, Charter School Law Still Broken? ... As Christie administration decides on new charters, debate continues about how to fix 15-year-old law

By John Mooney, January 17, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment

The Christie administration is preparing to announce a new round of charter schools this week, but a big question remains. What is the state going to do about a charter law that even supporters are calling one of the nation's weakest?

Related Links

Ruiz Charter Bill: S408 – SYNOPSIS -Modifies various aspects of charter school program including student

enrollment procedures, revocation of charter, monitoring of charter schools, and

collaboration between school districts and charter schools.

The latest criticism came from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which in its annual report released yesterday placed New Jersey's law 31st out of 42nd overall. It cited the lack of strong accountability measures tied to performance, weak funding, and limited approval and review process.

Charter supporters and critics alike agree that the current law, not to mention the state's capacity to enforce it, has grown increasingly inadequate. Among the variety of bills to strengthen it is one that would increase the number of authorizers that can review, approve, and monitor new charters.

Another that charter supporters don’t particularly like would allow local communities vote on whether a charter can be approved.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Education is expected to announce a new class of charters later this week, drawing from an original applicant pool of more than 40, which is sure to rekindle the debate about the merits of charters in general.

The newest class may not be a big one, since state officials said they will use the same standards as in the last round, which saw just four schools approved. But even that caused a stir, when one of the four was a suburban Camden County charter that set off an outcry -- and one legal challenge -- from local officials.

The flaws in the current charter law are likely to be brought up today, as the legislature starts its new session and Gov. Chris Christie gives his State of the State. A half-dozen charter bills have been held over from last session, and state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), chairman of the Senate education committee, plans on introducing another.

Christie said last week said that the charter law needs "sweeping changes. The current laws act as a deterrent to growth, rather than foster expansion of quality charter schools," he said at a Camden event.

But after more than a year of discussion and debate, there appears little consensus on exactly what that legislation will be, with some proposals moving in opposite directions depending on what critics or supporters prefer.

The bill to add authorizers has wide support, but has been held up, in part, over how to pay for it. The local-approval law is strongly opposed by the administration. One proposed compromise is limiting local vote to all but the lowest-performing districts.

An Assembly sponsor of more than one of the bills said yesterday that he remains hopeful that some package of bills can pass, maybe as part of one comprehensive rewrite of the 15-year-old law.

"I am cautiously optimistic we can get some progressive reforms in charter school law, as well as tenure," said state Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex). "I have to say I am extremely frustrated at the slow pace of this, but you have to keep at it."

Despite demands for charter reform, the first order of business in the Senate appears to be tenure reform. The education committee is considering both tenure and charter bills, and Ruiz said tenure legislation would come first.

Still, Ruiz pre-filed a new bill on Wednesday, the second day of the session, that would at least increase accountability, requiring greater data on both those accepted and those on the waiting list, further budgetary transparency, and specific mandates on how and when a charter could be revoked. A similar bill was also filed by state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer).

But the Assembly also is no guarantee of changes one way or the other. State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex) remains as chairman of the Assembly's education committee and has been a strong proponent of the local vote legislation. He also backs even stronger accountability measures than those being proposed by Ruiz.

What happens next is something of a guessing game among those who have followed the debate most closely. Grassroots group Save Our Schools NJ, which has long been critical of the current law and protective of district schools, is hopeful about the local vote bill.

"We think the momentum is overwhelming," said Julia Sass Rubin, a spokesperson for SOS NJ. "We're hearing that it will happen. The legislature and administration want this resolved."


Politickernj.com - Bramnick new Minority Leader

By Darryl R. Isherwood | January 17th, 2012 - 10:44am

Assemblyman John Bramnick was named the new Republican Minority Leader, replacing Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, who died suddenly last week at the close of the previous Legislature's final session.

Assemblyman Dave Rible will replace Bramnick as the Republican Conference Leader.

First elected in 2003, Bramnick served as conference leader from 2009 until the end of the session last week and was the Assembly Whip from 2007 through 2009.

Rible is beginning his third term in the Assembly and over the last two years has served as the caucus’ Whip. Prior to that, he was Deputy Conference Leader in 2009 and Assistant Republican Whip from 2008 to 2009.



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