Jon Corzine’s “commentary” on education posted on New Jersey Newsroom is most notable for what he leaves out than for what he includes. About half the piece is devoted to preschool expansion. There’s a defense of the new School Funding Reform Act and a bit about capping college tuition increases.
Yet not a single mention of charter schools. Not a single allusion to reforming teacher compensation. It’s as if the national debate on education reform exists in some alternative universe, with Corzine playing the part of the impossibly optimistic Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide, blithely espousing that this N.J. world “is the best of all possible worlds.”
Corzine: “Across the board, communities in this state saw their state education aid go up or remain level this year — a remarkable accomplishment given the economic downturn the state faced.”
Uh, not really. Ask any N.J. school board member who spent the spring overseeing budget cuts to square the mid-year cut in state aid and then the “deferral” of another mandated state aid payment.
Corzine: “We have worked relentlessly to make sure the dollars being sent to local school districts are not being wasted. Accountability rules and regulations have been adopted by the state Department of Education to make sure there are no abuses.”
Yes, the DOE issued hundreds of pages of regulations last year, some so ridden with errors and inconsistencies that it requested that School Business Administrators submit lists of errata to help them clean up the mess.
Corzine: “We have the nation’s best high school graduation rate. More than 82 percent of New Jersey high school students graduate in four years compared to the national average of 69 percent.”
Right. That’s because we are the only state in the country that gives kids who fail the standard high school assessment another test called the Special Review Assessment. No one fails the SRA. If we just counted the kids who pass the standard test, our graduation rate would be 24th in the country.
Corzine: “We are beginning to close the achievement gap for minority and low-income students.”
New Jersey has the most segregated school system in the country.
You get the idea. Yes, it’s campaign season. But in the midst of a national debate on education reform, Corzine is either wasting the opportunity to join the conversation, completely out of sync with federal Race To The Top priorities, or so cowed by the teachers’ union that he’s hoping no one will notice his lack of engagement. Here’s an irony: Republican Christie and Independent Daggett have more in common with Obama’s educational agenda at this point than our Panglossian incumbent.