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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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8-2-11 Education & Related Issues In the News

Wall Street Journal - Unions joining forces to counter Christie

By Lisa Fleisher August 2 2011

In an unusual show of collaboration, New Jersey's public worker unions plan to join together to try to upend Gov. Chris Christie's signature accomplishment this year: cuts to their pensions and health-care benefits.

Public workers, rather than Democrats, have been the Republican governor's greatest foil. He gained national attention after calling on teachers to accept salary freezes and blaming the state's financial woes on workers' compensation packages, which he mocked in town-hall-style forums across the state.  (Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal)

The Record - Handouts the latest in Christie's nice guy image tour

By Charles Stile Columnist, Tuesday, August 2, 2011 Last Updated: Tuesday August 2, 2011, 7:51 am

Democrats are spending the summer in Trenton typecasting Governor Christie as Darth Vader, the heartless and cruel ultraconservative.

But at a senior center in Hasbrouck Heights on Monday, Christie could easily have been mistaken as a fiscally pragmatic, Clintonian liberal. The Big Bully suddenly had a bleeding heart. And he was doing what Democrats do best — give away money to a crucial voting block at the early stages of a campaign season.

"I want to protect seniors so they can continue to live in New Jersey and be part of the fabric of this state. I want to protect the underprivileged who need to go to hospitals and get other government assisted health care," Christie said after announcing that some 182,000 households with seniors or disabled residents will receive an extra $100 to cope with the recent heat wave.

The goodwill handout, by the way, comes from federal funds, which created an ironic twist to Monday's visit — here Christie was spending federal money, while his national GOP allies had just brought the country to the brink of default by demanding steep cuts in federal spending.

But concern about his own image brought Christie to Hasbrouck Heights, not the national party. It was a Bergen County stop on the Christie Damage Control Campaign, an attempt to soften his image following his vindictive, line-item veto strafing of the Democratic Party-authored budget in late June.

The veto was one of Christie's worst moments. His cuts hit cash-strapped cities, a center for physically abused teenagers in Newark, after-school efforts for some 600 students in urban areas and legal assistance for the poor. The Democrats didn't so much craft a last-minute budget as set a political trap, and Christie plunged in head first with his veto pen, slicing and dicing swaths of the state's safety net in outrage. It was a rare political miscue.

The Democrats' budget was irresponsible and their outcry over Christie's heartless slashing was awash in crocodile tears. If they were really concerned about the vulnerable, they would have negotiated a budget that made them invulnerable to Christie's last-minute rage. They built a budget on their own rosy, fiscal guesswork, even though Christie had already certified his own, less rosy fiscal forecasts.

Still, those slash-and-burn cuts gave Democrats their cynical prize — documented evidence of Christie's insensitivity. And now they are spending the

summer, holding hearings on those cuts, demonstrating how they harm ordinary people. Their real goal is to harm Christie — and Republican legislators who held their nose, kept their mouths shut, and stuck by their leader by refusing to override his vetoes.

"It's just political theater," Christie said last week of the Democrats' hearings.

Maybe, but Christie has been on the summer straw hat circuit, revising his budget history and swapping Darth Vader for a firm but kinder Sheriff Andy Griffith of Mayberry persona. Under fire for bringing the Wynonna Lipman Center for abused teenagers in Newark to the brink of shutdown, Christie found replacement funds (federal money again) for abused children in Newark faster than Harpo pulled a bicycle horn out of his overcoat. After 18 months of administrative delays and squabbling with Democrats, Christie suddenly implemented the law legalizing medicinal marijuana, saying the threat of a federal crackdown was slim. He emphasized the law's formal title, the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act."

He softened his tone and offered to bargain with Democrats in restoring aid to the cities. And he is quick to remind people that his latest budget ramps up education aid by $850 million, the highest state funding ever. "I'm out here talking about helping seniors who can't pay their utility bills, adding $850 million in education aid to control property taxes and put teachers back to work," Christie said. Omitted from his boast is that some teachers who may get rehired were laid off last year when he slashed school aid by roughly the same amount.

Christie also stresses that the budget expands enrollment in the "property tax freeze" program, neglecting to mention that his original proposal didn't allow for new enrollees. It was the Democrats who added the extra money. Still Christie chose not to veto the money.

"Governing is choosing," he said.

Looking slightly tanned and relaxed following last week's asthma attack, Christie struck an upbeat tone. He proclaimed that the state was on the brink of a comeback, despite the nagging 9 percent unemployment rate. He praised Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who publicly called Christie a "bastard" and a few other choice words after his line-item vetoes.

"We're friends. And sometimes friends have arguments," he said. "He's a good, decent person, who cares deeply about New Jersey."

Christie then continued to justify his budgeting and the $100 handout as reflections of his values, and priority choices he needed to make during a weak economy. But those choices also reflect nervousness about his declining job approval numbers, especially among women and independents.

He is also choosing a new persona, a new script. It's a recognition that he'll need to if the Reign of Christie is granted a second act on one of the most visible political stages in the country.

E-mail: stile@northjersey.com

Nj.com-Associated Press - Senate President Stephen Sweeney creates website to show how much aid N.J. schools receive

Published: Monday, August 01, 2011, 7:15 AM Updated: Monday, August 01, 2011, 10:45 AM

By The Associated PressThe Associated Press

TRENTON — New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney wants residents to see with a few mouse clicks whether the state is living up to its obligation to fund their public schools.

The South Jersey Democrat told The Associated Press he created a web site to show how much money each school district is getting under Gov. Chris Christie's budget and how much it's entitled to under the funding formula approved by the state Supreme Court.

The site — www.schoolfundingnj.com — launched this morning. NJ.com also offers school aid information.

Christie's budget restored the education cuts he made last year and added $447 million for the poorest schools ordered by the high court.

But he rejected a surcharge on millionaires that would have allowed full funding of the school aid formula.

Related coverage:

• N.J. public school districts to receive at least 2 percent funding increase

• Abbott decision by N.J.'s deeply divided high court draws fire from all sides of school battle

Related topics: chris-christie, nj-supreme-court, stephen-sweeney


Press of Atlantic City - New Jersey Department of Education tells school districts to get started on criminal background checks for Board of Education members

By DIANE D’AMICO Education Writer | Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 11:22 pm

School districts have been notified to begin the process of completing criminal background checks on all school board members.

The state Department of Education has not set a deadline to complete the checks to allow time for the almost 5,000 school board members and charter school trustees to be processed. Districts were notified in a July 14 memo to begin having board members enter their information into the online system so they can get an appointment to be fingerprinted.

As of Friday, 29 people had completed the process, but state DOE spokeswoman Allison Kobus said in an email that because this is also the busy season for doing background checks on new district employees they are anticipating a backlog. But, she said, the state would be monitoring the process to make sure all are completed.

Gov. Chris Christie in June signed into law a bill requiring the background checks and prohibiting residents with criminal records from serving on a school board.

Locally one school board member, George Crouch, 42, of Atlantic City, is likely to lose his seat because of a drug-related crime in 1992. Crouch said at a school board meeting in June that voters knew his past when they voted for him, that he had paid for his mistake, and that he would stay in his seat until required by the law to leave.

The law originally gave members 30 days to comply, but the state DOE needed time to set up the system to process that background checks.

The law also requires the members to pay for the background checks, but allows school boards to pass resolutions to reimburse them. The cost is about $82.

Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said it appears that most, but not all, school boards are approving the reimbursement.

“I did have a school board member tell me that they require background checks for school volunteers, who have to pay for them themselves, so they felt school board members should also pay for their own,” Yaple said.

Contact Diane D'Amico: 609-272-7241  DDamico@pressofac.com


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