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6-27-12 Education Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - Will He or Won't He? Christie Plays Coy About Tenure Reform Bill…Governor says he could sign bill now, while still fighting seniority privileges

The Record - Christie blasts Democrats over budget but mum on what he'll do about it … “But Christie did not say whether he was going to veto the Democrats' budget, or just use the line-item veto to delete specific items, as many suspect he will do…”

Star Ledger column-Moran - Mars, Venus and getting things done in Trenton

NJ Spotlight - Will He or Won't He? Christie Plays Coy About Tenure Reform Bill…Governor says he could sign bill now, while still fighting seniority privileges

By John Mooney, June 27, 2012 in Education

He didn’t say he’d sign it outright, but Gov. Chris Christie yesterday indicated he could endorse the new teacher tenure bill passed by the Legislature this week -- while fighting to end teacher seniority rights another day.

Christie was asked late at a town hall meeting in a Brick middle school why he would support the bill passed by both the Senate and the Assembly this week if it retained teachers’ seniority rights, known as “last in, first out” (LIFO).

The governor has long said LIFO protections in the case of layoffs needed to end in New Jersey, and the decision by Democratic leaders to preserve the rule in this bill -- under pressure from teachers unions and others -- was seen as a major compromise.

In his first public comments since the Legislature’s votes, Christie yesterday said he had yet to make a final decision on the bill, and an administration official said it was unlikely he’d announce his decision this week, let alone hold a bill-signing event.

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But he did say he could have it both ways: sign the bill crafted by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), while taking up the LIFO fight separately in the future. The bill for the first time would directly tie tenure protections to whether teachers consistently draw positive evaluations, some of which based on student performance.

“The question is whether there are enough good things in there to sign it, and I have to make that decision,” he said.

“But either way, whether I sign or veto, I will not give up the fight to change that rule,” he said. “It just doesn’t take into account what we should all be thinking comes first: we want the best, we want the best for our kids.”

Most Statehouse observers, in and out of the Legislature, expect that Christie will sign the bill. The fact that every Republican Senator and Assembly member voted for the measure, giving it a unanimous approval, only further assured the party’s standard bearer would go along.

But Christie has championed the need to end LIFO from the start of his term, and it was one of the biggest sore points in his often-combative relationship with the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union that has said LIFO is sacrosanct.

Yesterday, he did not back off on that contention, albeit without any of the edge against the NJEA. And he did not say how he would pursue ending LIFO rights, whether in legislative process or regulatory one.

“A lot of these decisions should be based on merit,” Christie said to the questioner. “If you are working hard and doing your job really well, you stay. If you are not quite as good, you should go. That’s the way it works in every other profession.”

The comment drew loud applause from the audience, which was largely supportive of the governor on all topics yesterday.

Still, ever coy, when Christie was pressed by the audience member again, Christie he didn’t commit on what he would do. “Alright, we’ll see what will happen,” he said.

It was one of his less partisan moments in a town hall where he blasted away at Democrats for their $31.7 million budget plan approved this week, one he all but assured he would contest, whether with a line-item veto or an outright one.

He said he would go on a summer tour to tout his proposal for an income tax cut and also the Democrats’ own initial proposal for a property tax credit, all but left out of their final budget bill.

“I will point out to every living breathing New Jerseyans that these folks lied to you, they lied to me,” Christie said. “And I am going to kick their rear ends from one of the state to the other until you get your tax cut.”

 

The Record - Christie blasts Democrats over budget but mum on what he'll do about it … “But Christie did not say whether he was going to veto the Democrats' budget, or just use the line-item veto to delete specific items, as many suspect he will do…”

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 Last updated: Tuesday June 26, 2012, 4:54 PM

BY JOHN REITMEYER  STATE HOUSE BUREAU

Governor Christie blasted Trenton Democrats at an event in Brick Tuesday, but didn't say what he's going to do with the $31.7 billion budget they sent him on Monday.

The Democrats' spending plan looks a lot like the $32 billion budget Christie proposed in February, but holds back the $183 million in tax relief Christie wanted them to approve right away.

Instead, the Democrats -- worried about state tax collections that are lagging Christie's lofty budget targets -- say they will enact a new credit on income taxes tied to middle-class tax bills if state tax collections improve over the next several months.

"They said we're not going to give you a tax cut, you can wait until January," he said of the Democrats.

But Christie did not say whether he was going to veto the Democrats' budget, or just use the line-item veto to delete specific items, as many suspect he will do.

Christie, however, said he would "kick their rear ends from one end of the state to the other" this summer over the tax relief issue.

He also criticized Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chair Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, by name for his stance on the budget.

"Paul Sarlo will decide when you've been good enough" for tax relief, Christie said, simplifying the Democrats' concern about tax collections.

Sarlo could not be reached immediately for comment.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, said the budget cleared by the Legislature is responsible and takes into account the actual state of New Jersey’s economy where unemployment ranks above the national average.

“We can do much better but it means being smart with state finances, it means being responsible with the budget and it means being fair with tax cuts,” she said.

Email: reitmeyer@northjersey.com

Star Ledger column-Moran - Mars, Venus and getting things done in Trenton

Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 6:00 AM  By Tom Moran

If you are looking for the very best of the state Legislature, and the very worst, this has been your week.

The best came from Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who won unanimous support for a tenure reform she spent two years drafting. She met with everyone, answered every question and found more common ground than anyone thought possible.

This was democracy as they teach it in high school textbooks, a rare and beautiful thing that appears in Trenton as frequently as a celestial comet.

For the worst, look to the sloppy plan to reshape higher education. It was born behind closed doors, without consulting the people who would be affected most. It has provoked fury among faculty and students in Camden.

And even as it lumbers forward, no one knows what it will cost.

“The answer is difficult to pinpoint,” says Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, chairman of the budget committee. “The real answer is I don’t know.”

A few hours after saying this, Prieto (D-Hudson) voted for it anyway, just as the other committee members did. Imagine that. The first job of the budget committee is to examine costs and this crew waved the plan forward with a blank price tag.

Would you buy a house like that? Or even a pair of pants? They’re doing it with our higher education system.

The reason Prieto went along is that his political patron from back home in Hudson County, Sen. Nick Sacco, wanted him to. Sacco (D-Hudson) wants this because the governor wants it. The governor wants it because George Norcross wants it — and the governor needs Norcross to get anything passed in the Democratic Legislature.
It is, in other words, all about political muscle and power. To watch these guys vote this reform along, heedless of what damage it might do, is very much like watching a child run with scissors.

So why the contrast? How can one Legislature be so thoughtful on tenure, and so reckless on higher ed?

Here’s one theory: Ruiz is a woman.

“Women tend to work more cooperatively and to bring all stakeholders on board,” says Sue Thomas, former director of women’s studies at Georgetown University and author of “How Women Legislate.” “There is 30 or 40 years of research now showing there is a difference.”

If you are thinking about Margaret Thatcher, please stop. No one, including Thomas, says this holds every time. It’s a tendency.

So what’s the male version?

“It’s more all-or-nothing, more aggressive,” says Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University. “It has to be my way, and it has to be now.”

Sound familiar? This is our beloved Gov. Smackdown, exactly. And Norcross is the same way, behind closed doors.

They are both the sort of men who relish power. And once they’ve won a fight, they are both the sort to pump a few bullets into the cadaver just to make sure.

It may not be pretty, but this style of leadership has its place. In the end, Ruiz needed some muscle, too, to get the teachers union on board. Christie helped on that front. So did David Tepper, the billionaire who vowed to spend whatever it took to beat the union if it resisted.

As for higher education, Christie and Norcross believe that if they pause to answer every question, opponents will have time to mobilize against it. They want to strike now and fix the reform later if they must.

They may be right about the politics. Other governors have tried to reform higher education and all were beaten back.

And at its core, the higher ed shuffle makes sense. Rutgers could emerge as a powerhouse, and that’s the big piece.

The problem is Camden. In the original plan, Rowan University swallowed Rutgers-Camden whole, a prospect that had professors looking for new jobs and students calling their backup schools.

That’s been softened, one amendment at a time. But it’s still a lousy idea.

And if the men behind it had taken the time, they no doubt could come up with a better way to help Camden’s economy and boost higher ed in South Jersey.

They just never asked. And that’s one of the problems with testosterone poisoning: If you are convinced at the start that you have the answer, you’re not likely to search for a better one.


Tom Moran: tmoran@starledger.com or (973) 392-5728

 


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