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6-22-12 Education News - State Budget and Tenure bill moving ahead, with changes..
NJ Spotlight - Teacher Tenure Changes Pass Unanimously in NJ Senate…Key vote helps pave back-room compromise with Assembly to merge into single bill…” And while the Democrats did not make changes to the bottom line of what districts will receive in aid from the state next year, they did reject the administration’s language for how it devised those amounts…”

The Senate passed the bill sponsored by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) with a remarkable 39-0 vote, the Republicans’ unanimous support virtually assuring that Gov. Chris Christie will support it as well.There remains a different Assembly version, but Ruiz met yesterday for a half-hour with state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), the Assembly’s education chairman and sponsor of that bill, to work out differences.

In the end, the two agreed to a single bill…with much of Ruiz’s version prevailing in the Assembly bill” agreed to Ruiz’s version that it be two years of either “ineffective” or “partially effective,” the bottom two tiers. A teacher could get an extra year if showing improvement in that time. Diegnan also agreed to Ruiz’s conditions for teachers bringing a challenge to tenure charges, which were more limiting than his. But he did gain concessions in extending the timeline for the arbitration process and requiring evaluations of teachers only be conducted by supervisors in the district, not outside. Diegnan said he also won some language that student test scores alone would not be a determinant factor in a teacher’s evaluation, but one of several…”

Star Ledger - Tenure bill clears N.J. Senate

Asbury Park Press - NJ budget progress stalls amid Democrats' uprising

The Record - N.J. near top in per-pupil spending

Star Ledger - Students choose schools as part of state's interdistrict program

NJ Spotlight - Teacher Tenure Changes Pass Unanimously in NJ Senate…Key vote helps pave back-room compromise with Assembly to merge into single bill…” And while the Democrats did not make changes to the bottom line of what districts will receive in aid from the state next year, they did reject the administration’s language for how it devised those amounts

By John Mooney, June 22, 2012 in Education|

Many of the last hurdles were removed yesterday from what now seems like all-but-certain passage of a tenure reform law for New Jersey that would make it harder for teachers to gain tenure and easier to lose it.

The Senate passed the bill sponsored by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) with a remarkable 39-0 vote, the Republicans’ unanimous support virtually assuring that Gov. Chris Christie will support it as well.

There remains a different Assembly version, but Ruiz met yesterday for a half-hour with state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), the Assembly’s education chairman and sponsor of that bill, to work out differences.

In the end, the two agreed to a single bill, they said, with much of Ruiz’s version prevailing in the Assembly bill. The changes from her bill were mostly in some of the more technical details of implementation.

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Diegnan said he would move a new bill in the Assembly as soon as today, with a full Assembly vote on Monday. The Senate would then have one more vote on a final bill.

Tenure reform was just one vote in what was a busy day for both houses yesterday, as legislators continued to finalize a state budget proposal and take up other pending matters before their summer break. On the education front, the Democrats’ budget took a few swipes at the Christie budget plan, although they left largely intact his totals for school aid next year.

The main education headline, though, was the tenure vote, one that was by no means assured just a few weeks ago. Ruiz yesterday called it a “historic day” for the state.

“We have an opportunity to vote yes for teachers, yes for greatness, and most importantly, yes for the children,” she said in introducing her bill on the Senate floor.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) called it “probably one of the most significant pieces of legislation that I have been involved with in my 10 years here.”

Even the Republicans were praising the agreement, although they cited it more as a first move than an end in itself.

After months of talks and compromising, in the end Ruiz’s bill did not include some of the key provisions being pressed by Christie for the last two years, including the end of seniority rights for teachers in the case of layoffs.

“It is a step in the right direction, let’s be clear a much smaller step than many would have preferred,” said state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, (R-Monmouth), who had initially sponsored a bill reflecting Christie’s preferences.

Christie’s press office was not commenting last night on the Senate bill, but his administration, including acting education commissioner Chris Cerf, had been involved in the talks with Ruiz.

The negotiations with Diegnan proved less climactic than expected. There had been significant similarities between the bills already, both bills calling for a required four years to receive tenure, instead of the current three, and for due process before state arbitrators for teachers brought up on tenure charges.

But where Diegnan initially proposed that teachers would only lose tenure after two years of “ineffective” ratings, the lowest of four tiers of evaluations, he agreed to Ruiz’s version that it be two years of either “ineffective” or “partially effective,” the bottom two tiers. A teacher could get an extra year if showing improvement in that time.

Diegnan also agreed to Ruiz’s conditions for teachers bringing a challenge to tenure charges, which were more limiting than his. But he did gain concessions in extending the timeline for the arbitration process and requiring evaluations of teachers only be conducted by supervisors in the district, not outside. Diegnan said he also won some language that student test scores alone would not be a determinant factor in a teacher’s evaluation, but one of several.

“I’ve said that for a long time, I don’t think they should be the final determination,” Diegnan said.

The state budget developments around education were quieter, relatively small pieces in a voluminous $31.7 billion budget proposal from the Democrats but reflective of the majority’s continued unease with some of Christie’s other moves involving public schools.

For instance, the Democratic budget removed $1.7 million proposed by Christie for the establishment of seven Regional Achievement Centers across the state, the centerpieces of the administration’s school turnaround efforts.

Extensive work has already gone into the RACs, with interviews and even some hires taking place and training underway. But state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate’s budget committee, said Democrats did not believe the centers were ready and it proved available money to cut.

“They are not going to be prepared to have those up and running, so we just feel it was extra money that was not needed in the budget,” he said.

And while the Democrats did not make changes to the bottom line of what districts will receive in aid from the state next year, they did reject the administration’s language for how it devised those amounts.

The administration had made some unilateral changes in the state’s funding formula approved in the Abbott v. Burke litigation that advocates said would only hurt poor districts next year and in the long term. By not accepting that language, the Democrats signaled this debate was not over.

“The 2009 school funding formula remains the only school funding formula that has been approved by the Supreme Court,” Sarlo said. “We will give them the opportunity to justify their changes at a later date.”

 

Star Ledger -  Tenure bill clears N.J. Senate

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2012,  9:14 PM     Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2012,  9:14 PM

By Jessica Calefati/The Star-Ledger

TRENTON — The Senate unanimously approved a measure today intended to overhaul the state's century-old teacher tenure law and instead base job protection on regular classroom evaluations and student test scores.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) who sponsored the legislation, made compromises with the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, adopting amendments that retain the practice of laying off teachers based on seniority when budget cuts require staff reductions.

Senate President Steven Sweeney (D-Gloucester) called Ruiz’s tenure measure "one of the most significant pieces of legislation I’ve been involved in."

But Senate Republicans criticized what they consider the shortcomings of the bill, which faces a much rougher road in the Assembly.

State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said he is "disappointed" the bill does not "go further to protect children."

Kyrillos, who is running for the U.S. Senate, is the sponsor of a tenure reform bill backed by the Christie administration, which does address seniority.

"This is a step, but it is a much smaller step than many people would have preferred," Kyrillos said. "Let’s get on with the rest of the job."

But Republicans were not the only ones to criticize the legislation. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, chided Ruiz for not tackling seniority protections. Legislation that does not take into account teachers’ performance when declining enrollment forces layoffs will make it "very difficult for urban districts to be successful," Booker said.

"Our focus must be upon keeping the most qualified teachers employed, not simply the most senior," he said. "We in New Jersey have the very real threat that the first teachers removed will be among the most qualified."

A third version of the tenure measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), won approval by an Assembly committee last week.

Both Democratic bills extend the time it takes to earn tenure and speeds the process once charges have been filed to revoke a teacher’s tenure. But they differ in ways that will require the two lawmakers — both chairs of their respective education committees — to compromise.

Asbury Park Press - NJ budget progress stalls amid Democrats' uprising

8:25 PM, Jun 21, 2012 |  Written by GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press

 

TRENTON — Some New Jersey Democratic lawmakers tried to put up a roadblock Thursday to passing a state budget, even as their colleagues were advancing a list of spending additions to the $32 billion plan.

In an 8-5 vote, the state Senate’s budget committee passed the plan. It’s expected to be considered by the whole Senate next week.

Meanwhile, a group of nine Assembly Democrats said they will withhold their votes on the state budget unless a contentious plan to reconfigure New Jersey’s higher education system is delayed.

It’s not clear how it will turn out. The Assembly budget committee, which had planned a hearing on the budget for Thursday night, instead decided to leave it until Friday morning.

If it works, the gambit could either push back a decision on how to align Rutgers and Rowan universities and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey or force the Democratic majority to search for at least two Republicans to support their budget plans. There are 48 Democrats in the Assembly, where a bill needs 41 votes to pass.

Democrats who control both chambers of the Legislature want to return $66 million in revenue from utility taxes to municipalities, increase a tax credit for the working poor, bump up state aid to nursing homes and add $7 million to pay for women’s health services.

They are also trying to reinstate a tax on income over $1 million to pay for property tax breaks for many homeowners. Under their plan, senior-citizen and disabled homeowners with incomes less than $250,000 and other homeowners with incomes under $100,000 would benefit.

The extra spending boosts favored interests and principles of Democrats and likely sets up a series of battles with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has vetoed some of the same proposals in the past.

In a statement Thursday evening, Christie blasted Democratic lawmakers for not getting the budget adopted — invoking the name of Jon Corzine, the Democratic governor Christie unseated three years ago.

“After months of promising to deliver critical tax relief to the people of New Jersey, Corzine Democrats today proved it’s just more of the same when it comes to their addiction to raising taxes and holding tax relief hostage,” Christie said.

It’s all part of the early-summer rite of adopting a state budget. The state constitution requires that be completed by close of business on June 30.

This year, there’s broad agreement on most of the $32 billion spending plan, but plenty of disputes around the margins.

Christie’s plan relies on projections that revenue will grow by 7.3 percent over the next year, enough for $183 million on the first phase of a tax cut.

Democratic leaders say the governor’s estimates are too optimistic, and that the money to pay for tax cuts should be held in escrow until it’s clear the state can afford them.

“That’s a really bad idea. Business likes certainties, they don’t like maybes,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, who said he did not believe Christie would be willing to wait to cut taxes “He doesn’t have the patience for that kind of stuff. He wants a tax cut now.”

Despite the expected objections from the governor, the Senate’s budget committee passed its version of the spending plan on a party-line vote.

Republicans said waiting for a final decision on a tax cut was not needed.

“I think this budget makes a lot of people happy,” said Republican Sen. Joe Pennacchio, “but it doesn’t make the taxpayers happy,”

And Democrats said the Republicans were misguided to vote against a budget that the majority party sees as a compromise. “I’m a little perplexed with the ‘no’ votes, especially since this vote is virtually identical to the governor’s budget,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo, the budget committee chairman.

In legislative hearings earlier Thursday, the argument was over other spending.

The Assembly’s budget committee advanced a bill to allow the state to borrow up to $3.5 billion over the next four years to help pay for transportation costs that could come in at about $1.2 billion per year. The Senate budget committee has already moved ahead with an identical bill.

Assemblyman Jay Webber, a Republican from Whippany, objected, saying he believes it could be unconstitutional to borrow the money without putting the issue to voters. Several of the Democrats who voted for the measure did so despite misgivings that the state would be borrowing too much and that there was not a stable long-term funding source to pay for it.

Some advocates said the solution is to raise the state’s gas tax — but that debate was left for the future.

Meanwhile, Democratic-controlled budget committees in both houses approved legislation to return $66 million next year from an energy tax to municipalities. The state has been taking a cut of the receipts of the charges paid for utilities to locate power lines and other infrastructure in the towns. Mayors from both parties told lawmakers at hearings that they could use the money to help balance their budgets — or even offer property tax cuts. All the Republicans on the budget committees in both houses voted against the bill, saying the Democratic sponsors do not have a way to pay for it.

Some Republicans also predicted a Christie veto of that measure.

 

The Record - N.J. near top in per-pupil spending

BY LESLIE BRODYSTAFF WRITER

When it comes to public school spending, New Jersey's average of $16,841 per pupil in 2010 ranked it second to the top among states, the U. S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

The average of $18,618 in New York and $18,667 in Washington, D.C., exceeded New Jersey's per-pupil spending. All nine states in the Northeast region were ranked among the top 15 in spending in 2010.

In arguing for a new tenure bill and weaker seniority rules, Governor Christie has long argued that money alone does not bring achievement, and that billions poured into the state's poorest city schools have not brought adequate results. Many educators counter that New Jersey's schools, in the aggregate, are among the highest-performing in the country, even though there are pockets of chronically troubled schools with dismal test scores and low graduation rates.

There are many ways to calculate per-pupil spending, depending on whether transportation, debt service, capital outlays and other expenses are included. Last year Christie started counting those items, saying doing so gives taxpayers a fuller picture. According to data released in May by the state Department of Education, New Jersey spent an average of $17,469 per student in the school year ending 2011.

The Education Law Center, an advocacy group, asserted that Christie added items to the per-pupil funding figures to bolster his arguments for reining in spending on urban schools. The group says the Christie administration's proposed 2013 budget, which must be negotiated and passed by July 1, shortchanges poor children.

According to the Census Bureau, Utah spent $6,064 per student, the least nationwide.

Public school systems received $594 billion in 2010, up 0.5 percent from the prior year. Of that, local and state governments contributed 44 percent each, and federal sources paid the rest.

Email: brody@northjersey.com

Star Ledger - Students choose schools as part of state's interdistrict program

Published: Friday, June 22, 2012, 6:30 AM  By Jessica Calefati/The Star-Ledger

KENILWORTH — At David Brearley High School in Kenilworth, the top students do not necessarily hail from the Union County borough.

Because the district participates in a program that allows students dissatisfied with their neighborhood schools to enroll elsewhere, last year’s valedictorian and salutatorian did not have Kenilworth mailing addresses.

"Interdistrict choice brings us a lot of academically talented students looking to find a home elsewhere," Superintendent Sylvan Hershey said. "And we’re happy to accept them."

Kenilworth is one of nearly 70 districts that accepts students from other communities as part of the Interdistrict Public School Choice program. About 2,000 students were enrolled this year, with Hillside, Paterson and Winslow in Camden County among the top participants, according to the state Department of Education. Enrollment is expected to climb to 3,000 next year.

"Choice is good for students because it expands opportunities, and it benefits taxpayers because districts are tapping a new revenue source," Christopher Cerf, the state’s acting education commissioner, has said of the program.

In most cases, students who participate are leaving large, mainly urban, districts that struggle academically in favor of smaller districts with intimate class sizes and more one-on-one attention from teachers.

Most of the 237 students from Winslow left the Camden County district last year to attend Folsom Borough Elementary School. Nearly all of the 68 students from Paterson who signed up enrolled in Passaic County’s Manchester Regional High School. All but four of Hillside’s participants enrolled in Kenilworth.

Hershey said interdistrict choice brings Kenilworth more than academic stars. It also brings the district additional state funding to supplement a budget that has faced cuts in recent years. Last year, the program brought the district an extra $2 million.

Started a decade ago as a pilot program and recently expanded by Gov. Chris Christie, the program sends participants’ state aid money to their new school districts. There is no cost to parents, but home districts in some cases must pay for students’ transportation.

"Some of our highest-achieving students have come to us through the interdistrict choice program," Hershey said. "But I can’t deny that being a choice district helps with our budget."

The program also helps Kenilworth, a town of mostly white families, increase its racial and socioeconomic diversity, Hershey said.

Last year, the borough drew nearly 100 students from Hillside and Roselle. The district plans to have 163 participants for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Christie, who expanded the program in 2010, has described interdistrict choice as a way to increase competition among public schools that gives parents more options on where their children should learn. The governor also wants to increase school choice by backing charter school expansion and offering students in failing schools vouchers to attend private ones.

Other districts with high numbers of interdistrict choice participants include: Jersey City, Gloucester City, Lawrence, Dover, Trenton and Camden. Many of those students have opted to enroll in Hoboken, Mine Hill and Brooklawn among other districts, according to the Education Department.

 


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



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