Cheat Sheet for Christie’s Educational Agenda

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Here’s a Spark’s Notes version of Gov. Christie’s Education Subcommittee Report, which constitutes a list of recommendations to improve public education in N.J. Some are considered “early action,” i.e., to be completed within 90 days. The rest have a whopping 6 months for completion. Okay: maybe it’s more of a wish list, but it gives any reader a clear sense of Christie and Schundler’s agenda.

We’ve divided these 17 pages of pre-K through 12th grade recommendations (there’s another 8 on higher education) into 3 basic categories: School Finance, School Reform, and NJ DOE Oversight.

School Finance:

1) Identify “immediate opportunities to eliminate waste and expenditures from practices…that are making no or only limited contribution to the quality of education for children.”
2) Review the efficacy of Corzine’s School Funding Reform Act where, famously, “the money follows the child.” Establish an “expert task force” to assess N.J.’s “overall funding system.”
3) Freeze salaries for all public employees, including pre K-12 teachers, for FY 2011.
4) Support and adopt A-15/S-1861, which eliminates public votes on school budgets that come in below cap.
5) Reduce costs in the “difficult area” of special education by limiting tuition increases at private out-of-district placements (currently 8-10% per year), shifting the burden of proof from local districts to parents when disputes arise regarding placements, and providing adequate state funding under IDEA to lift the financial burden off of local districts.
6) When school districts and local bargaining units reach an impasse, allow districts the ability to invoke a “last best offer,” a practice in effect until the McGreevey administration.
7) “Create regional salary guides to control escalating salary increases.”
8) Figure out how to fund recurring expenditures now underwritten by ARRA money. Closely track the $327 million dollars due Jersey of Phase II ARRA money in FY 2010 budgets.

School Reform:

1) Immediately redo N.J.’s Race To The Top application to ensure a successful grant proposal for the second round in June.
2) Open 5-10 new charter schools in high-needs districts in September 2010 by expanding charters of successful charter school operators. Allow new charters to use underutilized space in district schools and equalize the funding disparity between traditional public schools and charters.
3) Create a “reliable, integrated data system that links student, teacher and school performance…in ways that have intellectual integrity and that provide transparency and clarity both for government and the larger community.”
4) Allow reciprocity for N.J. teaching and administrative certification, i.e., allow teachers and principals certified in other states to bypass the onerous bureaucracy to ease recruitment in high-demand disciplines.
5) Redefine what we mean by “low-performing” and “high-performing” schools; rely on formative assessments rather than annual high-stakes testing.
6) School Choice: families should have access to “a full range of high quality educational opportunities, including a strong, traditional public education infrastructure and a robust offering of charter schools and private school options.” Allow multiple chartering authorities, such as universities, instead of limiting charter approval to the DOE Commissioner. Provide tax credits to corporations that donate scholarships to poor kids to attend private schools. Expand the Inter-District school choice program, which allows children to attend public schools in neighboring districts. Rescind charters of low-performing schools “to demonstrate commitment to high standards for new and existing charter schools.”
7) Put a brake on the new graduation requirements under Corzine’s High School Redesign until there is adequate facilities upgrades. Allow the new half-year course in financial literacy to be included in existing courses. Slow down implementation of end-of-course exams.
8) Teachers should be eligible for tenure after 5 years, not 3. Streamline process of tenure removal for low-performing teachers.

DOE Oversight:

1) “The next Commissioner of Education, under the direction of the Governor, should review, refocus, and prioritize the efforts of the DOE to focus on the transformation of NJ’s schools to achieve excellence for all students, rather than focus on compliance and control that perpetuate the status quo and proliferate bureaucracy.”
2) Adopt Common Core Standards for math and language arts.
3) Reconstitute the State BOE as an “advisory board to the Commissioner with a central focus on long-term planning.”
4) Consider eliminating the 21 executive county superintendents and 81 employees in county offices.
5) Place a moratorium on both QSAC (the NJ Quality Single Accountability Continuum) which “is immensely burdensome to complete” and makes no distinctions between high-performing and low-performing districts, and on the 215 pages of accountability regulations issued by Davy (N.J.A.C. 6A:23A), which has “resulted in undue oversight, control and micro-management of school districts.
6) Amend laws that prohibit school construction projects from using “efficiencies in time and cost associated with methodologies used in the private sector.”

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