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6-5-12 Education Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - Facebook Founder and Broad Foundation to Pitch in More for NJ School Reforms...If approved, $600,000 from the high-profile private foundations to help with charters, school turnarounds

Philadelphia Inquirer - Bill introduced to reshape higher education in New Jersey

NJ BIZ - Senate Democrats introduce legislation to reorganize N.J. university landscape

Bloomberg - N.J. Students Struggle With Tuition as Schools Give Perks

NJ Spotlight - Facebook Founder and Broad Foundation to Pitch in More for NJ School Reforms...If approved, $600,000 from the high-profile private foundations to help with charters, school turnarounds

By John Mooney, June 5, 2012 in Education

The Christie administration is harnessing funds from two high-profile private foundations to press some of its statewide education reforms.

The State Board of Education tomorrow will have two unusual resolutions before it to accept more than $600,000 in outside funds from two foundations:

  • $200,000 from StartUp:Education, the national foundation created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

  • $430,000 from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the California-based organization that has helped train and support three of the administration’s top education officials, including acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.

If approved as expected, the money will go to several distinct projects, officials said yesterday. The StartUp money will be earmarked for research into best practices around school turnarounds nationwide, and toward the hiring of a grant writer in the department to seek additional funds.

This funding is not connected with Zuckerberg’s separate $100 million gift to Newark schools, also through StartUp.

The Broad Foundation money would go to two places, according to officials: $290,000 for professional training of staff in the administration’s planned Regional Achievement Centers, the hub of its efforts for improving the state’s lowest-performing schools; and $140,000 to bolster the state’s oversight of charter schools. The outside funding is a new twist for the department that has been depleted in resources, even as Gov. Chris Christie presses a greater state presence in public schools, especially in low-performing schools.

Such foundations have contributed to New Jersey schools individually and through their districts for years, and Broad has paid for consultants for the state, including in Cerf’s first year.

Democratic legislators in recent hearings raised questions about the administration’s prolific use of per diem consultants, although it is a practice used by previous administrations as well.

Still, even though a relatively small sum of money, this would be the first time in recent memory that outside foundations have paid the state directly and played so overtly a role in helping develop statewide policy. The state board is required to approve such outside funds, a process rarely invoked.

“I’ve never seen a resolution like this before, not in my time on the board,” said Arcelio Aponte, the state board’s president.

A spokesman for Cerf said the department was seeking all the help it could get in what is a busy agenda that spans school turnarounds, charter schools, teacher tenure and evaluation reform, and new funding systems for schools.

“We are taking on a significant amount of work, and looking at every available opportunity for support,” said Justin Barra, the department’s communications director.

“Pending approval from the State Board, these grants will strengthen our efforts to turn around our lowest-performing schools and ensure that we provide all students in New Jersey with a high-quality public education.”

The involvement of the Broad Foundation especially is likely to cause a stir, as the group is linked to aggressive and oftentimes controversial reforms in schools, including outright closures and staff overhauls now being championed by Cerf and Christie as options for New Jersey.

Cerf, a former deputy chancellor in New York City, was a Broad fellow before taking the New Jersey position. Also going through Broad’s programs were assistant commissioners Peter Shulman and Penny MacCormack. 

Philadelphia Inquirer - Bill introduced to reshape higher education in New Jersey

Gov. Christie lent guarded support to a bill introduced by Democratic legislative leaders Monday that would dramatically reshape higher education in New Jersey by drawing Rutgers-Camden closer to Rowan University and by breaking up the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

The legislation, introduced by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), would establish a board to govern Rutgers-Camden and Rowan and sever many of Rutgers-Camden's administrative links to the larger university.

The bill is not exactly along the lines of Christie's January proposal, but he called it "a critical and positive step," adding that he "looks forward to working together to achieve this reorganization by June 30."

The Republican governor's plan, especially his proposal to merge Rutgers-Camden into Rowan, has stirred months of protests from Rutgers students, alumni, and officials, and led to closed-door negotiations among political leaders on a possible compromise.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) and Joseph F. Vitale (D., Middlesex). Among its highlights:

All UMDNJ's assets in Newark and New Brunswick, except University Hospital, would be moved to Rutgers. University Hospital, in Newark, would become independent. UMDNJ, a sprawling network of eight campuses, employs 14,000 people across the state.

Rutgers-Camden would be "granted autonomy" and operate under a seven-member board of trustees. The school would receive funding directly from the state.

Rowan would be designated a research institution, ensuring greater state funding.

The joint Rowan/Rutgers-Camden board would be able to "approve or disapprove" decisions by each school's board of trustees.

That Rutgers-Camden would have "autonomy" but exist under a complex governance structure in which it is subject to oversight by a joint board overseeing it and Rowan raised suspicions among many Rutgers faculty.

"This a merger with Rowan in everything but name," said Andrew Shankman, a history professor at Rutgers-Camden. "It seems we've been completely cut off from Rutgers, despite the fact we would somehow retain the name of Rutgers."

In a statement, Sweeney said: "No one will get everything they want, but everyone will get something they want."

Rutgers-Camden chancellor Wendell Pritchett, who had staunchly opposed the merger at a campus meeting earlier this year, issued a statement that "I am deeply gratified that Senate President Sweeney recognizes the importance of Rutgers-Camden and wants to see us continue to flourish." He added: "I look forward to working with legislative leaders to refine this proposal."

The legislation comes at a critical juncture in the governor's efforts, backed by key legislative leaders, to remake the state's university system.

It comes less than 30 days from the legislature's vote on next year's budget, which Christie has set as a deadline for the university plan, which he introduced saying it would boost the universities' national competitiveness.

It is also only days ahead of votes scheduled for Wednesday by Rutgers' current boards of trustees and governors on a statement opposing any drastic restructuring of the university.

Norcross, a brother of powerful Democratic leader George E. Norcross III, has opposed Christie's plan to merge Rutgers-Camden into Rowan. But he said Monday that his legislation avoided the pitfalls of that plan.

In a statement Monday, Donald Norcross said: "We have worked very hard over the last several weeks to listen to all sides of the debate and incorporate their ideas into this plan. Real change will be achieved only through respectful collaboration."

For many in the political establishment, the legislation represented a starting point.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who last week helped draft a contentious list of demands for higher education in Newark, was among legislators who, while praising Sweeney's efforts, withheld endorsing his proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) said: "This is not some idea that is not allowed to be questioned. It is another step in the legislative process."

Questions of cost continue to hang over the proposal. The cost of a similar restructuring proposed under former Gov. Jim McGreevey was estimated at $1.3 billion.

The legislation follows months of behind-the-scenes negotiations involving members of Rutgers' board of governors and some of the state's top political figures, including Sweeney, George Norcross, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The bill also would grant Rutgers-Newark its own board of governors, with authority to "propose" capital projects and budgets to the larger university.

In an interview, George Norcross, a managing partner in The Inquirer's parent company and a supporter of Christie's plan, said the legislation would "create a new research university of over 20,000 students with a medical school, a law school, an engineering school, and two great universities in Rowan and Rutgers-Camden."

The question now is whether Rutgers' boards of trustees and governors will support the legislation when they meet Wednesday. According to the university, Rutgers, unlike other state universities, has the power to block legislative decisions in regard to its campuses.

Rutgers president Richard McCormick said in a statement that "overall the bill appears to advance the goals of enhancing medical education across the state, boosting Rutgers' standing among its peer institutions."

Whether the university's boards will go along was unclear. Last month, the trustees issued a statement opposing any deal that gave up Rutgers-Camden.

Jeanne Fox, a Rutgers trustee and vocal opponent of the Rowan merger, said the legislation was a setback.

"It seems clear that we need to work out a compromise, and this isn't a compromise," said Fox, chairwoman of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. "I'm hopeful we'll be able to work one out, but I thought it would be sooner rather than later."

Spokesmen for UMDNJ and Rowan declined to comment, saying officials were still reviewing the bill.



NJ BIZ - Senate Democrats introduce legislation to reorganize N.J. university landscape

By Sharon Waters June 04. 2012 6:58PM    
Sweeping legislation was introduced Monday to give a medical school to Rutgers University and reorganize its Newark, New Brunswick and Camden campuses into separate entities with their own financial and governing autonomy while retaining the Rutgers name, according to a release sent Monday evening from the office of the New Jersey Senate Democrats.

The bill, which also outlined changes to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and University Hospital, was introduced by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sens. Donald Norcross and Joseph F. Vitale.

Under the legislation, Rutgers-Camden would be granted autonomy and operate under a new, seven-member Rutgers-Camden Board of Trustees, to include four gubernatorial appointees who must be residents of a South Jersey county.

Rutgers-Camden also would have financial autonomy, receiving state appropriations directly and managing tuition paid by Rutgers-Camden students. The new Rutgers-Camden board will have authority over its allocation of state appropriations, setting of tuition and fees, and hiring and promotion of faculty.

A new Rutgers-Newark Board of Governors would be created, with the authority to propose capital projects, an annual budget, new academic programs and degree requirements, and candidates for tenure and promotion, among other things.

UMDNJ and all its Newark and New Brunswick-based programs and assets — most notably, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School — would be absorbed by Rutgers, except for University Hospital, in Newark. Rutgers would also take over all of the UMDNJ debt, except for University Hospital’s outstanding debt.

University Hospital would be accounted for as a separate entity, and would receive its own direct state appropriations. A new, independent board would be established to govern University Hospital, to include representation from Rutgers. The hospital will partner with the health care system of its choice to assist in its day-to-day management and operations. Barnabas Health had been discussed as a leading contender to manage University Hospital, but it was unclear the status of those discussions on Monday night.

The Rutgers' board of governors would be expanded from 11 to 15 members “to more effectively oversee the expanded university and its assets,” according to an outline sent with the Senate Democrats press release. It would include the chair of the new Rutgers-Newark board of governors, two members who reside in a North Jersey county.

The bill also proposes designating Rowan University as a research institution.

A joint Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden governing board would be established, including two members from both the Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University boards of trustees, and three public members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The power and authority of the new joint board would include, among other things:

– Approval of decisions of the Rowan University Board of Trustees and Rutgers-Camden Board of Trustees.

– Entering into shared development of curricula, programs and dual degrees.

– Joint appointment of faculty to Rowan and Rutgers-Camden.

– Shared resources/services for housing, student affairs and security.

– Shared curricular oversight over joint programs.

– Shared capital investment and bonding authority in health science facilities.

– Shared operation and governance of science and health science facilities.

– Designated state allocation to advance partnerships and dual degrees.

Employees' union protections would be preserved at Rutgers-Newark, UMDNJ, Rutgers-Camden and Rowan, according to the release.

Reorganization plans have been criticized, especially by Rutgers-Camden faculty and students, and Newark and Essex County politicians. The release said the legislation was “developed after a vigorous process of research, public input and compromise with various stakeholders.”

"Many people provided not only their input, but their willingness to meet halfway on many of these elements. No one will get everything they want. But everyone will get something they want,” said Sweeney (D-West Deptford).

Norcross (D-Camden) said, “We have worked very hard over the last several weeks to listen to all sides of the debate and incorporate their ideas into this plan. Real change will be achieved only through respectful collaboration.”

Vitale (D-Woodbridge) called the legislation historic.

“Rutgers University and the medical schools both have outstanding reputations, but what we will create through this legislation will elevate these institutions to a level that was always thought about but not truly realized until this moment. In turn, the positive impact this will have on South Jersey from an educational and economic standpoint simply can’t be measured.”


Bloomberg - N.J. Students Struggle With Tuition as Schools Give Perks

By Elise Young on June 05, 2012

In May 2011, a U.S. representative hailed Robert C. Messina Jr. in the Congressional Record as a“role model to the rest of the country” for his 25 years as president of Burlington County College, a two-year New Jersey school.

Back home, Messina was being called something else: unaffordable. His compensation from the county was $249,000 in 2010 after officials tried and failed to renegotiate his contract. Among his perks were lifetime dental, life and long-term health insurance and $75,000 for unused vacation days.

Such generosity may be at an end. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has ordered an investigation of the pay awarded to administrators of the state’s 19 community colleges. A May 30 report from Comptroller Matt Boxer found annual compensation packages as high as $441,000, padded with country-club memberships, the use of luxury vehicles, $460 steakhouse dinners and a $680 bill to move an incoming president’s pet.

“They just thought they were kings and queens,” Joseph Malone, the new chairman of the Burlington college’s board, said of the presidents who had scored such contracts. “What would possess boards of trustees in the past to do that?”

About half of the 441,400 students attending college in New Jersey are enrolled in two-year schools, according to budget testimony from the state Commission on Higher Education. The colleges, established in the 1960s as low-cost, close-to-home sources for job training and associate’s degrees, often cast themselves as springboards to universities, where students can transfer credits toward bachelor’s degrees.

‘Huge Disparities’

All public colleges were overseen by the state until 1994, when legislators abolished the Department of Higher Education and transferred governance to individual boards of trustees. Members, appointed by county officials and the governor, negotiate contracts with the presidents.

The arrangement has resulted in “huge disparities” in not only the salaries of community college presidents, but other forms of compensation, Boxer said in his report.

“There are no state standards or guidelines for college trustees to rely on when setting compensation terms for their president,” Boxer said. “It’s appropriate to set boundaries when schools are spending taxpayer dollars.”

The 19 schools collected $1.4 billion in revenue in 2010, with county and state governments providing 37 percent, and tuition payments accounting for 31 percent.

Tuition Costs

Tuition and fees at New Jersey community colleges are among the highest in the U.S., averaging $4,111 per year for in-state students, or 47 percent more than in 2004-05, according to data compiled by the College Board, a New York-based not-for-profit that lobbies on education issues. The charges rose 39 percent to $1,119 in California in the same period, and 30 percent to $4,253 in New York. The national average was $2,963 for the 2011-12 school year.

“It’s not fair to the tuition-payers and their families, and it’s not fair to the taxpayers who subsidize at the county level and the state level the operations of county colleges,”Christie, 49, a first-term Republican, told reporters in Trenton on May 30 when asked about Boxer’s report.

The average salary for presidents of two-year schools nationally was $165,000, according to a 2009-2010 study of 208 colleges by Yaffe & Co., a Towson, Maryland-based consultant to non-profits. Of New Jersey’s 19 such colleges, 16 paid their presidents more than $165,000, Boxer’s report showed.

Country Club

The highest base salary, $259,969, was for Thomas Brown, the president of Union County College who retired at the end of 2010. His total compensation, $441,100, also was the highest.

Brown was on sabbatical that year and received full pay and benefits, according to Boxer’s report. Margaret McMenamin, who replaced Brown, received a base salary in 2010 of $220,000, 15 percent below her predecessor’s. Her contract included dining privileges at a country club, at a cost of $2,800.

Christopher Guaraca, a 23-year-old student at the Union college in Cranford, called the pay packages “unfair” during a June 1 interview at the student center, as he complained about dated computers that took a half-hour to boot up.

“You’ve got students who are literally working day and night just to get through here,” said Guaraca, who juggled a roofing job while pursuing his architecture degree. “If that money went more toward the classrooms and the things that students need, it would be much better for all of us.”

College Cars

Fifteen presidents were provided cars, with one, Edythe Abdullah of Essex County College in Newark, given the use of a Lincoln MKZ luxury sedan. Two vehicles had satellite radio at an additional cost to the college, the report found.

Essex also paid $20,176 for Abdullah’s cost to move from Florida, according to Boxer. That included $680 for her dog, Karma, to travel safely, she said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“There need to be guidelines,” she said of presidents’future compensation.

The contract for Jon Larson, president of Ocean Community College in Toms River, included an E-ZPass toll transponder for personal use and the third-highest compensation, $300,793.

“He should not be paid this much,” said Kathy Tietge, 48, of Toms River, a philosophy professor and president of the college’s full-time faculty union, with 102 members. In April, a vote of no-confidence in Larson passed with 60 of 67 members who cast ballots in favor. “The president has told me on a number of occasions that we are financially in a problem.”

Travel Costs

Larson, who is 71 and lives in Toms River, declined an interview request.

“The comptroller’s report speaks for itself and I have no problem with the way it reported my compensation,” he wrote in an e-mail May 31.

Boxer’s report found that at least two of the colleges paid travel expenses for their president’s spouse. One, Cumberland County College, covered the $495 cost of airfare for the wife and $140 for meals for the couple during the trip to a convention in Seattle.

Patricia Donohue, president of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, received compensation of $229,100 and a monthly housing stipend of $2,000 in 2010, according to Boxer. The school paid her moving expenses of $12,200 in 2007.

“It’s a little surprising,” said Semion Ribansky, 24, an Israeli citizen who lives in Plainsboro and is studying engineering science at Mercer. “I would think there are presidents who are passionate about this, rather than for the financial gain.”

Brookdale Audit

Boxer began reviewing executive pay at the schools last year after newspaper reports about such arrangements led to the resignations of presidents at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft and Gloucester County College in Sewell.

Brookdale paid $27,382 for tuition for the president’s children in 2010, and an additional $13,375 to cover the income-tax liability related to those reimbursements, Boxer said. The president’s total compensation was $329,911 in 2010.

Boxer also found that Brookdale paid more than $11,000 in dues and other fees for its president’s membership to a country club in 2010. Another $10,574 covered lodging costs, including $900 for five stays at a hotel about 90 minutes from campus. College officials were unable to explain why the president needed to stay at this hotel, Boxer’s report said.

President Suspended

Brookdale made changes after its board suspended the president, Peter Burnham, in March 2011 amid a three-year audit of his expenses. Burnham, 68, of Colts Neck, resigned, and the school referred the matter to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The case remains under investigation, Christopher Gramiccioni, first assistant prosecutor, said in a June 1 telephone interview.

There was no response to a message left June 4 at a telephone number listed for Burnham. His lawyer, Steven Secare of Toms River, didn’t return a June 1 call.

Brookdale hired an interim president, William M. Toms, 48, a retired state trooper from Millstone Township, at a salary of $150,000. It also hired an internal auditor to find cost savings, established a fraud hotline, restricted travel and adopted federal guidelines for expenses.

Toms, in a June 3 telephone interview, said he routinely works 16 hours, drives his personal car and pays for fuel “on my own nickel.”

“We have a fiduciary responsibility,” Toms said. “The idea of having some guidance in place statewide is a step in the right direction.”

Contract Terms

In Burlington County, two freeholders had tried since 2010 to renegotiate a contract with Messina, the president who was honored by Representative Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, in remarks submitted in May 2011 to Congress.

Andrews, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he had“the highest regard” for Messina. “His value far exceeded his compensation,” Andrews said.

Messina, 65, from Mount Holly, retired in February. There was no response to a message left June 1 at a telephone number listed to him. The post-employment benefits for him and his wife will cost Burlington more than $110,000 over the next 10 years, Boxer estimated.

“That type of entitlement is wrong,” Bruce Garganio, freeholder director, said in a June 1 telephone interview. The incoming president will have a less generous contract, he said.

“Every time they overextend, it went straight to the kids who are having a tough time receiving an education,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net



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