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2-23-12 Education in the News - Education reform noted in state budget message; Facebook grant to Newark teachers
Newsworks New Jersey - newsworks.org - Education reform: Calls for expansion charters in chronically failing districts and passage of Opportunity Scholarship Act & tenure reform

Star Ledger — Twenty-five teams of Newark teachers to receive more than 200K Facebook grant "...Winners earned up to $10,000 each and include groups of educators from 13 traditional and charter elementary schools, eight high schools and four special education schools..."

Newsworks.org - Christie outlines increase in education funding, calls for reform in N.J. budget address

February 23, 2012  By Laura Waters, for NewsWorks

Total spending is projected to be $32.1 billion, with $8.8 billion appropriated to public education in Gov. Christie's 2012-13 fiscal plan.

Education budget breakdown

Education numbers

- Gov. Christie proposes a $108 million increase in higher education

- $213 million more for the State's 591 public school districts.

 

Education reform

- Calls for expansion of charter schools in chronically failing districts and urged passage of the long-debated Opportunity Scholarship Act.

- Proposed tenure reform

Total spending is projected to be $32.1 billion, with $8.8 billion appropriated to public education in Gov. Christie's 2012-13 fiscal plan.

The speech offered plenty of red meat for those of the education reform persuasion, particularly in the areas of school choice and tenure reform. Indeed, Gov. Christie seemed particularly energized by his recent contretemps with his favorite whipping boy, Vince Giordano, Executive Director of NJEA.

Education Budget Numbers

Gov. Christie proposes a $108 million increase in higher education and $213 million more for the State's 591 public school districts. The K-12 increase is 1.7% more than last year: school board members and administrators were praying for no less than flat aid and the proposed increase erased a few wrinkles on furrowed brows. (Precise details on individual school districts should start filtering in any moment now.)

Reportedly, this budget allots one of every three dollars to education.

The incident with Vince Giordano is worth recalling in this context because it has provided the Christie Administration with such a rich source of material. For those of you in hibernation, last week on a radio show the NJEA executive (widely believed to have a compensation package of about $500K per year) was asked about the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a voucher program that would provide corporate-sponsored scholarships to poor kids in a few of New Jersey's worst school districts. Commenting about how the poor can't always attend private and charter schools, Giordano said, "Life's not always fair and I'm sorry about that."

Cue Chris Christie. From Tuesday's Budget Address:

"It's not enough and it's not appropriate, to simply tell our most challenged urban families, trapped in over 200 failing schools, that "life's not fair." That is the expressed attitude of some in the educational establishment in our state.

It is not mine. It can no longer be the attitude of this legislature. Our job is to make the future better for every child in a failing school. We cannot simply accept failure or even mediocrity. We must demand excellence.

 The opportunity to get a great education should not be a function of the zip code you live in — it should be a hallmark of growing up in New Jersey."

Education reform

Easy segue, then, from Giordano's slip of the tongue (which provoked a harsh response from Ed. Comm. Chris Cerf ) to the Governor's passionate advocacy during his address for two specific items on his education reform agenda: school choice and tenure reform. In the former category, school choice, he called for the expansion of charter schools in chronically failing districts and urged passage of the long-debated Opportunity Scholarship Act.

He also proposed an additional $14 million for the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program (IPSCP). (IPSCP permits districts with empty seats to volunteer to accept students from outside district boundaries. Home districts pay tuition and transportation.)

In the latter category the Governor remarked, "We need to reform tenure. We need to pay the best teachers more." This is a reference to a bill proposed by Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) called "TEACHNJ" which would make job security (tenure) conditional on continued classroom effectiveness and end the practice of "last in, first out" (LIFO), which means that the last person hired is the first person fired during lay-offs.

Sen. Ruiz's bill, however, does not legislate merit pay but it's the closest thing to meaningful tenure reform that the Garden State's seen in some time. (NJEA has proposed a weaker tenure reform bill that still makes some consessions.)

In general, Gov. Christie artfully inserted his pet education initiatives into a larger framework of providing resources for New Jersey's needy citizens. This construct – no doubt heartfelt but also politically astute – could serve him well as he prepares to take on larger issues of school funding in the New Jersey Supreme Court.


Laura Waters is president of the Lawrence Township School Board in Mercer County. She also writes about New Jersey's public education on her blog NJ Left Behind. Follow her on Twitter @NJleftbehind.

Star Ledger - 25 teams of Newark teachers to receive more than $200K from Facebook grant

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012, 6:30 AM  By Jessica CalefatiThe Star-Ledger
NEWARK — Twenty-five teams of Newark teachers with innovative plans to improve their schools will receive more than $200,000 in grants funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the city’s schools at a reception today.

More than 100 teams of teachers applied for the money after the nonprofit Foundation for Newark’s Future — the group responsible for spending Zuckerberg’s gift and funds raised to match it — announced plans to award the "teacher innovation" grants.

Winners earned up to $10,000 each and include groups of educators from 13 traditional and charter elementary schools, eight high schools and four special education schools.

"These grants are just the beginning of our commitment to ensuring that every school has the very best teachers — educators who innovate and take action to ensure that every one of their students is on a college and career trajectory," said Greg Taylor, CEO of the Foundation for Newark’s Future.

The grants give teachers an opportunity to start programs tailored to the needs of their schools. Programs awarded funding include ones to boost literacy, use iPads for special education instruction and help high school students conduct complex chemistry research.

A committee comprised of three retired teachers, an administrator, a district official, and a charter school official selected the winning applicants, a spokeswoman for the foundation said.

Milagro Harris, a history teacher at Central High School, and three colleagues won $8,627 to establish "an inquiry-based social justice curriculum" that compels students to research Newark.

"The idea is to help the kids become experts on their own lives," Harris said. "So often, the complaint from our teenagers in Newark is that the book knowledge is not relevant to their lives. Working on something like this changes that."

Teacher Janet Mino at John F. Kennedy School will use a $7,729 grant to buy 10 iPads to help 31 autistic students learn to communicate.

When Mino first learned of an application that could help nonverbal autistic children communicate, she spent more than $500 of her own money to buy a device. The success had been remarkable, she said.

"After working with one student on my personal iPad, he was able to order lunch at the mall. He had a voice," Mino said. "If we had iPads years ago, do you know how far along these young adults would be in the world?

Teachers who wish to apply for additional innovation grants may compete this fall for nearly $400,000. A spokeswoman for the foundation said city education officials hope winners will share their ideas with colleagues in other schools to reach students across the district.


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



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