Yesterday Gov. Chris Christie gave his State of the State speech, which received a lukewarm response, at least in New Jersey. See analyses from NJ Spotlight (here, here, and here), PolitickerNJ (here and here), the Star-Ledger, the Asbury Park Press, the Record, the New York Times, and the Wall St. Journal.
Both NJ Spotlight and PolitickerNJ include in-depth coverage of Christie’s remarks on education, including his touting of N.J.’s tenure reform bill, state school funding, and urban reform. To the surprise of many listeners, he attempted to revive the moribund Opportunity Scholarship Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Kean that would provide vouchers, paid for by corporate tax credits, for children assigned to chronically-failing schools in some of N.J.’s poorest cities.
Here’s Sen. President Steve Sweeney’s reaction to Christie’s renewed push for OSA:
“That came out of left field,” Sweeney said in an interview after the speech. “That completely came out of left field. I looked at Tom Kean when he said it, and he even looked shocked.”
Asked about the school-voucher bill’s prospects, Sweeney said: “No, we’re not even going to discuss it.”
Christie also saluted Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard’s educational leadership while conspicuously avoiding references to Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson.
“Hope and optimism is up, and the fear of failure is down,” he said of the Camden schools. “I have been in Camden High School, and those children are once again feeling a sense of pride of where they go to school and what their future looks like.”
A bevy of Democratic legislators concurred with Christie’s approval of Rouhanifard’s education reform efforts and explicitly expanded Christie’s implicit distinction between Camden and Newark.
State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) reiterated what the other legislators who represent Newark felt was the main difference between their city and Camden in terms of policy.
“[Christie] highlighted Camden because there has been a setback in Newark around the issue of education,” Caputo said. “[Newark School Superintendent Anderson] is not engaged with the community. If the governor wants to have a partnership, you have to have someone in place who is willing to communicate with all aspects of the community. To get adequate school reform, you have to have cooperation,and in Newark it’s more about style than substance. We need the governor to concentrate on resolving these issues.”
“There has to be a new and fresh approach, for me that means a new direction for [the Newark school] district,” added state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), chair of the Senate education committee.
“What’s different in Camden is there is a very different approach by [Camden City Schools Superintendent] Paymon Rouhanifard, who is working with Camden’s mayor,” said state Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29), a former Newark school advisory board member, referring to another Christie appointee who heads Camden’s state-run school district and who used to work in the Newark school district. “When [Rouhanifard] left Newark, he took some examples with him of what was working and what wasn’t working. He really started fresh in Camden.”