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1-28-13 Commissioner Cerf converses with Senate Education Committee
Star Ledger -N.J. schools chief addresses Senate education committee

Politickernj - Cerf: N.J. ahead of other states regarding school safety; per-pupil funding remains problematic

Star Ledger -N.J. schools chief addresses Senate education committee

By Jeanette Rundquist/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger
on January 28, 2013 at 1:14 PM, updated January 28, 2013 at 1:57 PM

TRENTON School funding and security are being discussed as state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf testifies today before the Senate Education Committee for the first time since he was confirmed as commissioner last year.

Budget committees in both houses of the Legislature earlier this month objected to the Governor's Education Adequacy Report, which recommends changes in education funding that could mean less money for urban districts.

With Cerf invited to appear before the committee to address a variety of educational issues, members of the Education Committee also raised questions about the proposed funding changes.

"If we don't spend money on the front end of life, we're going to spend it on the back end of life," said Sen. Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer).

Cerf, however, said New Jersey's spending is "incredibly generous" and the issue is "how we make sure it is spent on things that will truly make a difference."

Cerf was asked to appear by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Teresa Ruiz, (D-Essex), who said she sought an "open dialogue about what is the vision of the Department of Education, and where we are moving forward."

The first topic to come up was school security in the era after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Cerf said New Jersey's school security rules and regulations are already comprehensive, and will include "a very small number of unannounced visits" by department staff conducting surprise security drills.

He said it is a "highly local decision" if school districts want to put armed police officers in schools, as some have done.

When asked whether he believed the state's 2 percent spending cap would affect spending on school security, Cerf said no.

Other topics of conversation include teacher evaluations.


Politickernj - Cerf: N.J. ahead of other states regarding school safety; per-pupil funding remains problematic

By Minhaj Hassan | January 28th, 2013 - 12:27pm

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TRENTON - Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf appeared before the Senate Education Committee Monday, discussing a wide variety of issues, including safety and per-student funding.

On school safety, Cerf said the state is ahead of many states, adding that no major changes were made to policies. He said there are measures in place on how react to incidents like fire bombs, threats, and intrusions.

While there may be other measures recommended in the future on school safety, depending on what Gov. Chris Christie's recently formed safety task force recommends, Cerf said it's vital that schools remain "warm and nurturing environments."

Christie said in December he doesn't want schools to become "armed camps."

Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), of Edgewater, asked if the administration supports having police officers doing walk-throughs in school, like one of them does in her area.

Cerf said that "it's a highly local issue," and the decision is ultimately left to the school districts.

He added there are some basic precautions every school district should take, such as sign-in procedures, safety drills and making sure loudspeakers work in every district.

School funding

Regarding school funding, Cerf said while money is important in providing a quality education, it ultimately comes down to how the money is being spent.

New Jersey on average spends $17,000 per student, the third highest in the nation, only trailing New York and the District of Columbia, he told lawmakers.

Putting more money in districts already receiving well above that amount, Cerf said, will probably not make much difference.

In Camden, which spends on average $20,000 per student, he pointed out that 23 out of 26 schools there are among the lowest performing in the state. "Is there anyone who really believes that will change the educational outcome," Cerf said about putting more money toward those schools. "The answer is absolutely clear."

But Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), of Trenton, said money needs to be invested to help at-risk kids in urban districts, many of whom come from environments stricken with poverty, unemployment and single parents.

"We don't spend money on the front end of life, we're going to pay for it in the back end of life," she said. "We're going to pay now or pay a lot more later."


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