Yesterday afternoon the N.J. Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe as Chris Cerf’s permanent replacement. Media coverage focused on some “tough questions” asked of the nominee, including the state’s adoption of the Common Core, superintendent salary caps, the faltering interdistrict school choice program, charter schools, Abbott school funding, and, always in the background, state control of Newark. Here’s a few highlights.
Star-Ledger: “When asked about New Jersey’s superintendent salary cap, Hepse said some salaries were out of line when it was enacted, but the state will review the policy when it sunsets in 2016 and study its effects, including the perceived “brain drain” of experienced leaders fleeing to other states.”
NJ Spotlight: some of the toughest questions came from Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), a particularly conservative politician, who was critical of Hespe’s support for the Common Core. Additionally, Cardinale criticized the Abbott school funding rulings that have “dictated the state’s school funding for the past 40 years.”
When asked by Cardinale whether he thought Abbott had been a success or failure, Hespe hedged at first, calling it a “tough” call. He went on to say that the successes have been significant, especially about the preschool mandates from the court that every three- and four-year-old in the 31 affected districts be provided high-quality programs.
But Hespe then said that other programmatic successes have been more elusive, in part a failure of philosophy but also economic times that have prevented the state from funding the programs to the court’s full mandate.
“It is hard to say that we have seen the gains in leaps and bounds,” Hespe said.
The Record: “Carolee Adams, who heads the Eagle Forum of New Jersey, a conservative interest group, asked the committee to delay the vote on Hespe’s nomination so the public can see how he manages the new tests and how a task force that Hespe leads will review the tests and standards. ‘The stakes are too high for a nomination this vital to be granted prematurely,’ she said.”
Also, Hespe confirmed the need to freeze the Interdistrict Choice Program (already frozen, by the way, to the chagrin of participating districts, school boards, and families).
PolitickerNJ: State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (Essex) is not on the Judiciary Committee but was included because she chairs the Senate Education Committee. She said,
“It is so inherently clear at the mismanagement in certain districts,” she said, “that I have to ask — when is the madness going to stop?
Hespe replied that the DOE’s “’greatest challenge continues to be improving academic outcomes while at the same time remaining accountable to taxpayers for the misuse of their dollars’ but that the state is working on holding superintendents of under-performing school districts, like those in Newark and Paterson, accountable.”
Philadelphia Inquirer: “Hespe indicated his support for charter schools, saying they “provide additional educational opportunities in districts that are struggling.”
On increasing the length of school days, which Christie highlighted last year: “He said it was possible that the state could increase the length of the school day or year, as Christie called for in his State of the State address, but added, “At this point, it’s hard to say we’re going to have to do that.”