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1-19-12 Education Issues in the News
Star Ledger - Gov. Christie: I can cut N.J. income taxes while boosting state education aid… “…Republican governor told a town hall audience in Vorhees he would phase-in the [10% income tax] cut over three years at a cost of $300 million per year…"I would tell you we’ll be able to do that not only without cutting aid to education but with increasing aid to education." … The promise is a direct reaction to Democrats in control the Legislature who pounced on Christie’s income tax plan …”

Politickernj.com - Christie pledges more aid to school districts 'shut out' of process… Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday the state will provide more school aid to districts that have largely been shut out since much of the aid was given to the state’s neediest schools…”

Politickernj.com - Christie says charter schools should be targeted toward failing districts

Philadelphia Inquirer - At Voorhees town hall, Christie fields charter school complaints

Star Ledger - N.J. education boss Christopher Cerf moves out of Essex County… Acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has moved out of Essex County, where a Democratic state senator has been blocking his confirmation for more than a year, to a heavily Republican legislative district.

Star Ledger - Gov. Christie: I can cut N.J. income taxes while boosting state education aid “…Republican governor told a town hall audience in Vorhees he would phase-in the [10% income tax] cut over three years at a cost of $300 million per year…"I would tell you we’ll be able to do that not only without cutting aid to education but with increasing aid to education."

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 6:05 AM Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 8:08 AM

By Jenna Portnoy/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie said he can institute an across-the-board 10 percent income tax cut and still increase state aid to education.

As part of a day-long victory lap Wednesday to promote the ideas unveiled one day earlier in his State of the State address, the Republican governor told a town hall audience in Vorhees he would phase-in the cut over three years at a cost of $300 million per year.

"The fact is there's a lot of waste in government to be ferreted out over time," he told hundreds of people in the atrium of a shopping mall, some perched over a balcony to get a good look. "I would tell you we’ll be able to do that not only without cutting aid to education but with increasing aid to education."

The promise is a direct reaction to Democrats in control the Legislature who pounced on Christie’s income tax plan, calling it rhetoric aimed at boosting the governor’s national profile. They labeled it a gift to the wealthy that would decimate revenues so much that schools would suffer.

"Don’t let the Democrats who are opposing this fool you into thinking you have to make a choice between the two," he said.

Christie, who said more details about how he’ll slash state spending would come in his Feb. 21 budget address, took his message of responsibly reducing the size of government around the state and over the airwaves. The whirlwind day started at 7 a.m. with an interview on NBC’s "Today Show," followed by an appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

As soon as the hour-and-a-half-long town hall ended, he held three quick-fire radio interviews before heading to the New Jersey Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City Wednesday night. He’s got interviews lined up today on CBS and Fox.

Asked on WNYC whether he would sign the same sex marriage bill Democrats have made a priority of the new session, Christie said he remains unconvinced the Legislature can muster the votes to deliver a bill to his desk.

"This type of societal change is something we need to do very deliberately and have as much public input as we possibly can before people decide whether we can to overturn hundreds of years of social mores and traditions," he said.

Christie said he would not "prejudge" the measure, and signaled he’d be open to strengthening the current law.

"I want to see what they come up with," he said in an interview on New Jersey 101.5. "There might be other ways to address the issues, the legitimate issues that advocates have raised. I’d be willing to listen to all that stuff."

Christie commands the national spotlight more than ever as GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s most outspoken surrogate – a position that may help him at home.

Though 60 percent of Garden State Republicans said it is "somewhat likely" or "very likely" the former Massachusetts governor will tap Christie as his running mate, 68 percent of them agree with Christie, who has said time and time again he that he does not have the "right kind of personality" to fill the number two spot.

The numbers, released in a Quinnipiac University poll Wednesday, found 53 percent of New Jersey voters approve of the job he’s doing.

Politickernj.com  - Christie pledges more aid to school districts 'shut out' of process… Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday the state will provide more school aid to districts that have largely been shut out since much of the aid was given to the state’s neediest schools…”

By Minhaj Hassan | January 18th, 2012 - 5:32pm

VOORHEES - Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday the state will provide more school aid to districts that have largely been shut out since much of the aid was given to the state’s neediest schools.

“A lot of districts will see increased aid,” he said during his first-ever town hall meeting in a trendy mall on Town Center Boulevard here surrounded by hundreds of people, some of whom looked over from the rafters. “We’re going to do it in a coordinated way.”

He said the state will be able to provide increased funding, in addition to his proposed 10 percent income tax cut that he hopes to phase in over three years.

That claim counters one made by Democrats Tuesday, who said education funding would need to be cut to free up funding for the proposed income tax reductions. The approximate annual cost for the cuts is about $300 million.

When one questioner asked him about the Democrats’ argument, Christie responded, “That’s a false choice.”

“They’re selling up that choice…to confuse you.”

“We’ll be able to do that without cutting school aid.”

Christie didn’t specify where the money to pay for the income tax cut would come from, only saying “There’s a lot of things we can do reduce the size of government.”

The governor pointed out the public sector work force has been at its lowest level in 11 years.

Politickernj.com - Christie says charter schools should be targeted toward failing districts

By Minhaj Hassan | January 18th, 2012 - 5:40pm

VOORHEES – Gov. Chris Christie seems to be in agreement with some people who are opposed to seeing charter schools open in well-performing districts.

In response to one woman at his town hall today who complained about a charter school that’s seeking to open in Voorhees, which she described as a very good district, Christie agreed that the primary focus of opening charter schools should be in districts that are deemed failing.

The governor added that he made this preference known to acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.

“Those are the districts where the parents are in desperate need (for school choice),” he said.

While that is his preference, Christie warned that “I can’t prejudge these applications,” adding that all applications go through an extensive vetting process.

Doing so, he warned, could produce a lawsuit.

In what could be the next YouTube moment, Christie shut down an antsy participant who seemed unsatisfied with his answer.

“Guys like you who are rude… doesn’t allow for civil discourse in this state,” he said, receiving thunderous applause. “You don’t like the answer, I’m sorry

 

Philadelphia Inquirer  - At Voorhees town hall, Christie fields charter school complaints

By Joelle Farrell, Inquirer Staff Writer Jan. 19, 2012

Hours after being questioned on national television - again - about whether he'd like to serve as America's vice president, Gov. Christie found himself at a mall in Voorhees fielding questions about a distinctly parochial issue: a controversial charter school in Cherry Hill.

Christie launched a series of town-hall meetings Wednesday, hoping to sell an income-tax cut and other ideas he addressed in his State of the State speech the day before. Instead, he was met with parents worried that the charter school would siphon money from their local public schools.

The governor, who drew a crowd of hundreds in front of a Macy's store at the Voorhees Town Center, said he would prefer that charter schools operate in struggling, rather than high-performing, school districts, a position he had expressed Tuesday in his speech in Trenton.

When asked why his administration would approve the Regis Academy Charter School, which hopes to serve 450 students in kindergarten through eighth grade from Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Lawnside, and Somerdale, Christie said the law didn't restrict where charter schools could open.

"I am not a king, despite the fact that I would love to be," Christie said after passionate questioning from Alan Ehrlach, a Cherry Hill resident. "I have to operate within the law."

The four districts from which Regis would draw are projected to lose a combined $2.8 million in state aid, which could mean larger class sizes and teacher layoffs, according to the Cherry Hill School District.

"Public funding is being taken away from high-performing school districts; we don't agree with that," Stephanie Jacovini, 40, said in an interview before the governor arrived.

Jacovini's daughter has just started kindergarten. Stephanie Jacovini and her friend, Jeanine Martin, 36, moved from Philadelphia to Voorhees specifically for the school district.

"We live here because we can educate all three of our kids in a high-performing district for a fraction of the price of Center City," said Martin, whose children are ages 4, 7, and 9.

The Cherry Hill School District is fighting the charter school in court: It is challenging Regis' charter approval.

Regis would open at the Solid Rock Worship Center, a nondenominational, predominantly African American church. The Rev. Amir Khan, pastor of Solid Rock, sits on a committee of African American pastors that he said has met frequently with Christie on the issue of charter schools.

But when Ehrlach shouted at Christie about his connections with Khan, Christie said he didn't know who he was talking about.

"Amir Khan?" the governor asked, before shouting Ehrlach down, saying that it was interruptions by questioners like him that didn't "allow for civil discourse in this state," a line that received loud applause.

Christie urged the four people who spoke up about the Regis Academy to call their legislators and ask them to pass a charter school reform bill.

But Julia Sass Rubin, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools, a group fighting for more transparency and local control in the charter school approval process, said that they were not looking to bar charter schools from areas like Cherry Hill, but that they wanted parents in every district to have a greater say on whether to accept charter schools in their communities.

"Our position has always been that money shouldn't give you more democracy," she said in an interview.

During his opening remarks at the town hall, Christie focused on his plan to cut income taxes 10 percent, which he would phase in over three years.

Among Democratic legislators, the tax cut Christie proposed was easily the most controversial piece of his State of the State address Tuesday. They said the cuts would mostly benefit the rich and wondered where he would find more than $1 billion in the budget to pay for them.

But at the town hall, only one person asked Christie about it.

Attoh Moutchia, 43, a Democratic committeeman from Lindenwold, asked Christie whether the tax cut would take money away from the schools.

Christie said that the Democrats were presenting a false choice, that taxpayers deserve to get their money back.

Earlier, he mocked Democratic critics of his tax cut. "It's like your money is just stuck in their cold, dead hand," he said. "Nobody knows better how to spend your money but you."

He started the day Wednesday on NBC's Today show and then on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

The morning-show hosts preferred to quiz him mostly on his vice presidential aspirations. Christie has endorsed GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney and has campaigned hard for him. The crucial South Carolina primary is just days away.

Christie said Romney hasn't asked him to be vice president.

"I have said all along I want to be governor of New Jersey," Christie said on NBC. "If you're a betting guy, bet on me being governor of New Jersey after 2012. I think it is rude and wrong to say you wouldn't do something you haven't been asked to do."

Christie, who plans to go to Irvington on Friday, said that, in the coming months, he would hold town-hall meetings several times a week all over the state to sell his plans.

While that is his preference, Christie warned that “I can’t prejudge these applications,” adding that all applications go through an extensive vetting process.

Doing so, he warned, could produce a lawsuit.

In what could be the next YouTube moment, Christie shut down an antsy participant who seemed unsatisfied with his answer.

“Guys like you who are rude… doesn’t allow for civil discourse in this state,” he said, receiving thunderous applause. “You don’t like the answer, I’m sorry.”

 

Star Ledger - N.J. education boss Christopher Cerf moves out of Essex County… Acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has moved out of Essex County, where a Democratic state senator has been blocking his confirmation for more than a year, to a heavily Republican legislative district.

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 6:30 AM  By Star-Ledger StaffThe Star-Ledger

 TRENTON — Acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has moved out of Essex County, where a Democratic state senator has been blocking his confirmation for more than a year, to a heavily Republican legislative district.

Justin Barra, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, confirmed last night that Cerf "has established residency in Somerset County to allow him to shorten his commute and be closer to Trenton."

Earlier in the evening, state Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Somerset), said Cerf has recently relocated to Montgomery Township.

State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) has been using a practice known as senatorial courtesy to block Cerf’s nomination. The practice gives legislators free reign to stop — without giving a reason — gubernatorial appointments of people who live in their districts. Cerf, who has owned a home in Montclair since 1999, had been living in Rice’s district.

Bateman said he learned Wednesday that Cerf has moved to Somerset County, which is dominated by Republicans. Bateman said he received a memo from Gov. Chris Christie’s office with a list of appointees in his district. Cerf’s name was on the list.

"They were asking me to take a look at the individuals and if appropriate, sign off on senatorial courtesy," Bateman said.

The senator said he hopes to speak with Cerf today, then expects to sign off on the appointment.

"I know he’s been doing a good job as acting (commissioner)," Bateman said.

The senator said he did not know why Cerf moved to Montgomery, but said he did not think it was because of the battle with Rice. "I think sooner or later, that was going to be worked out," Bateman said.

In addition to its proximity to Trenton, Montgomery is known for its good schools and open space.

Christie, a Republican, nominated Cerf as education commissioner in December 2010. Rice invoked senatorial courtesy after learning a consulting firm founded by Cerf had been paid $500,000 to make recommendations about which Newark schools could be closed or consolidate based on declining enrollment or poor academic performance. Cerf cut ties with the firm before assuming his public role and did not profit from the contract.

Rice said he believed Cerf’s move was directly related to his blocking of the appointment. "He won’t be called ‘acting’ anymore," Rice said. "But he will have the same paycheck and the same authority to destroy urban education and keep us in Newark from having a say about what happens to the kids in our district."

Staff writer Jarrett Renshaw contributed to this report.

 


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609-394-2828