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7-23-12 Education and related Issues in the News
The Record - Christie's likely choice for high court has a way with Democrats and Republicans alike

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Charter School Performance Framework…The rules and regulations for the charter schools, specifically the nine newest

Star Ledger Editorial - New Jersey makes careful progress on charter schools

National Education Policy Center Report (NEPC) - Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools…Full report, go to http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/understanding-improving-virtual

StarLedger - N.J. Dept. of Ed. releases guide on town spending on public schooling

The Record - Christie's likely choice for high court has a way with Democrats and Republicans alike

NJ Spotlight -  Fine Print: Charter School Performance Framework¡­The rules and regulations for the charter schools, specifically the nine newest

Star Ledger Editorial - New Jersey makes careful progress on charter schools

National Education Policy Center Report  (NEPC) - Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools¡­Full report, go to   http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/understanding-improving-virtual


StarLedger - N.J. Dept. of Ed. releases guide on town spending on public schooling


The Record - Christie's likely choice for high court has a way with Democrats and Republicans alike

Sunday, July 22, 2012 Last updated: Sunday July 22, 2012, 9:20 AM



The last time Lee A. Solomon appeared before the state Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing, the chairman marveled at the three previous times Solomon had sailed through similar proceedings.

 ¡°How do you do it?¡± asked state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union. ¡°How do you get so many governors to nominate you for so many different things?¡±

Solomon ¡ª now reported to be Governor Christie¡¯s latest Supreme Court nominee ¡ª won unanimous approval in a hearing lasting less than a half hour, and eventually a seat on the Superior Court in Camden County late last year.

The observation illustrated Solomon¡¯s lengthy track record dealing with Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature ¡ª first as a Republican assemblyman from South Jersey, and then in confirmation hearings for posts as Camden County prosecutor, president of the Board of Public Utilities and two stints as a Superior Court judge.

While an assemblyman, Solomon pushed for tough laws against crime, but as a prosecutor, he championed the state¡¯s first programs to divert drug offenders from prison. And he aggressively pursued a case against one of South Jersey¡¯s highest-profile religious figures despite the potential backlash he faced.

This wide-ranging career, unusual even for members of the state Supreme Court, means that Solomon would be able to take his firm grasp of legal principles and government and fairly apply them on a court expected to tackle high-profile issues ranging from affordable housing to school funding to gay marriage, his former colleagues say. Even defense attorneys he encountered in court ¡ª while he was both judge and prosecutor ¡ª call Solomon fair-minded.

Solomon¡¯s election campaigns garnered donations from the National Rifle Association and the New Jersey Education Association, the state¡¯s largest teachers union and traditional Democratic stalwarts. Presaging his later career as a prosecutor, many of the bills Solomon sponsored dealt with criminal policy and the justice system.

After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protected flag burning as free speech, Solomon sponsored a bill in 1990 that would have made it a crime to destroy a flag or religious symbol if the action was meant to incite a riot.

He successfully pushed through a measure, known as the Safe and Secure Communities Act, signed into law by Gov. James Florio in 1992, that provided funding to hire 2,000 more police officers throughout the state.

And faced with the growing AIDS epidemic in the early ¡®90s, Solomon introduced a series of bills relating to the disease ¡ª including one that would have made knowingly infecting a person with HIV attempted murder, and making it a capital offense if the infected person then died of AIDS.

As Camden County prosecutor, Solomon was an early champion of ¡°drug courts,¡± programs that allow people to undergo residential treatment instead of prison terms, said Francis ¡°Spike¡± Orlando, the former assignment judge in Camden County.

Though widely lauded now ¡ª and recently expanded by Christie ¡ª the program, which was piloted in Camden County, originally attracted criticism for its diversion of some offenders from prison and into drug-treatment programs.

¡°Lee was a critical and essential part of drug court being successful,¡± Orlando said. ¡°You couldn¡¯t start drug court without the support of the prosecutor.¡±

That courage was also apparent in the highest-profile case Solomon oversaw as Camden County prosecutor, said Jim Lynch, who was Solomon¡¯s first assistant prosecutor.

Though several members of Solomon¡¯s office didn¡¯t want to pursue a case against Fred Neulander, a prominent Cherry Hill rabbi accused of hiring two men to murder his wife, Solomon never wavered in his determination to follow the facts where they led, Lynch said.

¡°I remember Lee said that we had the right guy,¡± Lynch said, noting that Solomon attended a neighboring synagogue. ¡°He thought it was a case we had to make.¡±

Neulander was convicted and is serving a sentence of 30 years to life.

Solomon¡¯s record also draws a sharp distinction with Christie¡¯s previous two nominees to the bench: Phillip Kwon, a career prosecutor from Closter, and Chatham Mayor Bruce Harris. Both were relatively unknown in Trenton ¡ª and both were rejected in historic votes by the Judiciary Committee this year.

Christie is considering naming Solomon, whom he has known since 1992, to the highest court, according to several sources familiar with the process. Christie said Thursday that any formal announcement was ¡°premature.¡±

¡°We are still going through a vigorous vetting process of a number of candidates,¡± he said. Solomon, now a Superior Court judge, did not return a call seeking comment.

If nominated, Solomon¡¯s varied experiences in law, elected office and on the bench would give him an unusually wide range of experience for the New Jersey Supreme Court, according to Rutgers-Camden law Professor Robert Williams.

Having former members of the Legislature sit on the state¡¯s highest court ¡°has been fairly rare,¡± Williams said, adding that Solomon has experience in ¡°essentially all facets of the legal and political system.¡±

Most Supreme Court justices in recent history, Williams added, come from positions in the governor¡¯s office or the Attorney General¡¯s Office.

Solomon, on the other hand, will have ¡°a perspective about how these legal and political institutions actually work,¡± he said.

In addition to his appointed offices and stint in the Assembly, Solomon worked in private practice and has been a federal prosecutor, freeholder and Haddon Heights borough councilman.

As a lawmaker, Solomon was ¡°very interested in policy outcomes,¡± said Florio, who served as governor for much of Solomon¡¯s tenure in the Assembly.

Solomon, Florio added, is ¡°sort of a dying breed. He¡¯s a moderate, thoughtful Republican.¡±

Lawyers who represented clients prosecuted during Solomon¡¯s tenure called him fair and reasonable.

¡°He could look at both points of view even though he was never a defense attorney,¡± said Mike Pinsky, a prominent South Jersey defense lawyer who worked with Solomon on criminal policy issues in Camden County.

As a judge in Camden County ¡ª where he has presided over family, criminal and civil matters ¡ª Solomon delivered fair rulings, said Michael J. Friedman, who recently retired as Camden County¡¯s chief public defender.

¡°As a judge, he was on the high side [in delivering sentences] but not to the point of pushing people around,¡± Friedman said.

¡°He¡¯s tough,¡± Friedman added. ¡°He is a Republican. He is conservative, but it¡¯s not like he went out of his way to hurt people.¡±

The bottom line is that ¡°Lee is a very, very bright guy ¡ª and he knows the business,¡± he said.

Email: campisi@northjersey.com



NJ Spotlight -  Fine Print: Charter School Performance Framework¡­The rules and regulations for the charter schools, specifically the nine newest

By John Mooney, July 23, 2012 in Energy & Environment|1 Comment

What it is: The state Department of Education last week released a 23-page checklist for all new charter covering academic, financial and other operations. The framework sets standards on everything from how well students must fare on state tests to financial data on how much debt a school is carrying.

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What it means: The Christie administration has continued to revise its accountability standards for charter schools as it faced increasing pressure from critics and local school districts. The new framework was announced at the same time that the administration cleared the way for another nine charter schools to open in the fall, including two that will provide a mix of online and in-person instruction.

Where it came from: The standards were developed in conjunction with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, an increasingly influential organization working with the state in not just setting policy but reviewing applications and renewals.

Whom it applies to: For now, the new framework only applies to new charter schools, starting with the nine announced last week. A similar framework will apply to existing charter schools, but is still in development and will not be released until the end of the summer, officials said.

The quote: ¡°Charter schools are granted autonomy in exchange for accountability, and we at the state level will continue to hold all charter schools accountable for results to ensure that they offer all students a high-quality education and an equality of opportunity,¡± said acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.

Tough standards: The framework requires that the new charters not just match student achievement in their host districts but exceed it. For instance, a charter school will only meet standards in math when it exceeds district averages by at least 10 percent.

Who¡¯s in school?: Admissions and enrollment policies for charter schools continue to be their biggest target, with critics contending that some charter schools serve students who are not representative of the school districts they draw from. The new framework does require charter schools to monitor enrollment numbers and check for high attrition rates of English language learners, and to at least have a plan to address them. It does not have a specific policy for low-income students, and largely keeps to the law in terms of what is required for students with disabilities.

The consequences: Not everyone is pleased, with critics questioning who will do the evaluations and what the consequences will be. Some called the checklist ¡°toothless¡± and meant to subvert legislative efforts to put more accountability in the schools. ¡°The new performance framework points out more problems that it can solve,¡± said Deborah Cornavaca, an organizer with Save Our Schools NJ. ¡°If this framework, as reported, is to be self-administered by charter schools we cannot expect a thorough and objective evaluation. And there is no indication of repercussions or corrective action on the part of the DOE.¡±

Always about capacity: The state¡¯s monitoring will always come down to the extent it can itself monitor the schools, an issue faced with district schools as well. The state¡¯s charter school office has doubled in size since Cerf came into office, but no further expansion is in the state budget for next year, while the interest in charter schools and their needs for oversight only continue to grow.


Star Ledger Editorial - New Jersey makes careful progress on charter schools

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012, 7:00 AM

It¡¯s good news for the charter school movement that acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf has taken a smart, careful approach to expansion.

Many of these alternative public schools are making huge strides. But others are still failing.

So the challenge is to make sure we get this right, to choose only the very best charter schools, to nurture them and make sure that they¡¯re shielded from political brush fires.
Cerf seems to understand that. His latest list of newly approved charters is, once again, a short one.

Of 32 applications, Cerf chose only nine. All but one will be in urban districts. Focusing on growing charter schools where they¡¯re most desperately needed makes sense.

First, the politics. The big threat to the charter movement comes from legislators in the suburbs, where several proposed charter schools have provoked strong opposition. Some legislators want to require voter approval for each new charter that wants to open, an easy way for the teachers¡¯ unions or other well-organized groups to stick a knife into the movement in low-turnout school elections.

Our view is that charters could help underserved kids, even in successful districts, and that the claims that these schools drain money from conventional schools is overblown. The money follows the kid, and the funding formula short-changes charter schools more than conventional schools.

But since expanding the movement in failing districts is more important, it is wise for Cerf to sidestep the political fires in the suburbs by focusing on failing urban districts, as he has with this round of approvals. In the same vein, he has put off a decision on two online-only schools, part of a class of charter schools that has also proved a lightning rod for critics.

In an ideal world, politics would play no role in these selections. And perhaps it¡¯s only a lucky coincidence.

But this roster of approvals helps protect the movement where it is needed most.
Cerf also was right to confront the anti-charter backlash in Newark. When the school advisory committee refused to lease empty space to five charter schools, despite the fact that 10,000 children are on waiting lists for charter schools, Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson vetoed the board¡¯s resolution and Cerf supported her.

The board¡¯s vote was a head-scratcher. Leasing the empty space will not only help the families on the waiting list, it will bring the districts $500,000 a year in rent. And some of the schools that will expand are top performers. One of them, Team Academy, has made admirable efforts to draw low-performing students into its ranks, which many charters do not. That has to be encouraged.

By and large, charter schools in New Jersey have outperformed their district counterparts, according to a study by the state Department of Education last year. But the record is uneven, and the movement needs to expand to meet the need. Cerf¡¯s approach should help on both fronts.

National Education Policy Center Report  (NEPC) - Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools¡­Full report, go to   http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/understanding-improving-virtual

byGary Miron, Jessica Urschel

July 18, 2012 Press Release ¡ú

K12 Inc. enrolls more public school students than any other private education management organization in the U.S. Much has been written about K12 Inc. (referred to in this report simply as ¡°K12¡±) by financial analysts and investigative journalists because it is a large, publicly traded company and is the dominant player in the operation and expansion of full-time virtual schools. This report provides a new perspective on the nation¡¯s largest virtual school provider through a systematic review and analysis of student characteristics, school finance, and school performance of K12-operated schools. Using federal and state data, this report provides a description of the students served by K12 and the public revenues received and spent by the company at the school level. Further, the report presents evidence from a range of school performance measures and strives to understand and explain the overall weak performance of these virtual schools.

While the authors share the excitement of new technologies and the potential these have to improve communication, teacher effectiveness, and learning, they recommend that policymakers move forward cautiously and only after piloting and thoroughly vetting new ideas. The authors express hope that their findings will help inform policymakers and motivate researchers to carefully study various aspects of full-time virtual schools. They conclude that a better understanding of virtual schools can serve to improve this new model and help ensure that full-time virtual schools can better serve students and the public as a whole.

StarLedger - N.J. Dept. of Ed. releases guide on town spending on public schooling

Published: Friday, July20, 2012, 3:57 PM Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012, 3:57 PM

By JessicaCalefati/The Star-LedgerTheStar-Ledge

TRENTON ¡ª Taxpayerswho want to know how much their home towns spend on public schooling can findthat information in a guide released today by the state Department ofEducation.

The data used to create the 2012 Taxpayer's Guide to Education Spending wasfirst reported by The Star-Ledger in June, when the statereleased statistics on spending, test scores, enrollment andmore for every school in the state.

Follow the link below to find information on schools spending in your hometown.



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