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3-7-12 Education and Related Issues in the News
Asbury Park Press -Judge tosses out pension lawsuit

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: State Board of Education…Public hearing slated on allowing districts to sell advertising on school buses


Asbury Park Press -Judge tosses out pension lawsuit

10:15 PM, Mar. 6, 2012 |    Written by Jason Method  Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON — A federal lawsuit brought by New Jersey public employee unions in an attempt to overturn last year’s pension and benefit reforms has been tossed out of court.

U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson ruled Monday that the issue is not under federal jurisdiction because of the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which courts have held gives the states sovereign immunity over their own matters.

The ruling was widely expected even by lawyers who are representing unions in pension cases around the country.

The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, and a host of other unions and pensioners, had argued that the pension and benefit reforms approved last June represented a violation of their federal contractual and other rights.

As states across the country have enacted pension reforms a flurry of lawsuits have been pursued. Plaintiffs in New Jersey and Maine are among the very few to seek action in federal court.

Plaintiffs in other states have, to a greater or lesser degree, have found some initial rulings in their favor.

New Jersey’s reforms forces workers to contribute more toward their pensions and work longer before retirement. But two-thirds of the savings for the state comes from freezing the annual cost-of-living raises given to retirees.


NJ Spotlight -  Agenda: State Board of Education…Public hearing slated on allowing districts to sell advertising on school buses

By John Mooney, March 7, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment

Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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Time: 10 a.m.

Place: NJ Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton.

What they are doing: The board’s agenda is full with both policy discussions and votes that ultimately could have a strong effect on schools. There will be opportunity for the public to speak as well, including on new regulations allowing advertising on the side of school buses.

School monitoring: From the day he took office, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf has said one of his first acts was to improve on the state’s complicated monitoring system for schools, called the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC). Over the better part of six months, a series of changes were proposed and modified that will make the process simpler and more focused on student achievement, Cerf said. The board is expected to give final approval to those changes today.

Urban hope: When Gov. Chris Christie signed the Urban Hope Act this winter, he set in motion a process that allows three selected districts -- Newark, Trenton and Camden -- to partner with non-profit organizations to start up new schools. Cerf is slated to give a report on the new law and its prospects in the three cities. There are no proposals as yet filed for the new schools, officials said.

Teachers face a new test: The board will begin discussion of participation in a new national entrance exam for incoming elementary school teachers. The so-called Praxis exam is already required for teachers, but the Education Testing Service that develops the national test has a new, tougher version the board is considering. With the discussion also comes the separate decision on what the state’s required passing scores would be for the exam.

Re-reorganization: Eight months after Cerf presented the board a reorganization plan for the department, he’s making some changes -- or at least adding some details. The new organization structure adds Cerf’s plans for “regional achievement centers” across the state, and some tweaking of department responsibilities, said Arcelio Aponte, the board’s president. Still, even with the changes, some key jobs remain unfilled in the department, including an assistant commissioner for innovation.

Odds and ends: The board will hold its required public hearing on proposed regulations for allowing school districts to sell advertising on the side of school buses. It’s an idea that brought some debate when the legislature enacted it into law, but discussion over its accompanying regulations have so far been relatively quiet. And the board will go through its annual ritual of approving accepted religious holidays, a long list of days from all faiths --mainstream and otherwise -- during which students of that faith can have an excused absence from school.

Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608