Sen. Teresa Ruiz Scotches Opt-Out Bill, Despite Pressure from NJEA and Save Our Schools

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Props to Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who withstood pressure from NJEA and Save Our Schools-NJ and stood strong against an Assembly bill that would have required school districts to facilitate opting-out of state standardized tests.  Instead, last week, as reported today by NJ Spotlight, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution that “urges Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines on how students not participating in Statewide assessment will be supervised and what alternate arrangements may be provided.”

The original bill, A 4165, was sponsored by Assembly members Patrick Diegnan and Mila Jasey, both of whom support the equally ill-conceived charter moratorium bill. Both of these bills are ardently supported by NJEA and SOS-NJ and ardently opposed by civil rights leaders.

Why does anyone who cares about disenfranchised children oppose oppose efforts to weaken state ability to assess student growth? Let’s ask the old Diane Ravitch, before she underwent her conversion from education scholar to evangelical union hack:

“Absent standards, poor and minority children do not have equal access to challenging courses; absent assessments, no one can know the size of the gap between schools or groups of students or whether that gap is growing larger or smaller. Without valid standards and assessments, there is no way to identify low-performing schools or to determine whether all students are receiving equal educational opportunity.”

Of course, A 4165 never had nothing to do with the well-being of children. The bill was always all about  NJEA and SOS-NJ’s leaders’ militant stance against tying a fraction of student outcomes on tests to teacher evaluations, a view shared by NEA.  If we can’t validly identify low-performing schools without unified participation in standards and assessments, as Ravitch explains, we can’t validly identify low-performing teachers either. Problem solved.

A 4165 passed unanimously in the Assembly, although one wonders if that’s because Assembly members knew that it would never pass in the Senate. Here’s Sen. Ruiz:

“We wanted to give discretion to the department without being onerous,” she said yesterday. “The key here is we keep moving forward. This puts steps in place, without a binding statute where we can’t have some flexibility.”

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  • Dan Masi, July 27, 2015 @ 2:50 pm Reply

    “A4165 passed unanimously in the Assembly, although one wonders if that’s because Assembly members knew that it would never pass in the Senate.”

    Right. Because legislators love going on record for voting for something they don't really believe in.

    Here's another way to paint the same picture: the Assembly bill passed unanimously, with both sides of the aisle voting a resounding “yes”. The bill then had to get through the Senate Assembly Committee in order to be heard by the full Senate, but in the smaller committee, Senator Ruiz unilaterally decided that the bill would not be heard. There was never a Senate vote, because Senator Ruiz decided that there shouldn't be.

    So in the Assembly, you have the entire weight of the whole political spectrum of legislature behind this bill. And then you have a single person who decides it shouldn't be heard in the Senate. The same person, btw, whose major campaign contributors include the hedge-fund-founded, Walton-funded “Democrats For Education Reform” as well as David Tepper, bringer of private uber-funding to bear on his agenda of corporate reform.

    This Senate bill received a lot of public attention. Seems to me that the more contentious a bill may be, the more important it should be to have discussion and vote on it. Seems kinda, you know… democratic.

  • NJ Left Behind, July 27, 2015 @ 3:17 pm Reply

    “Because legislators love going on record for voting for something they don't really believe in.”
    Actually, Dan, it happens all the time and has much to do with locking in campaign contributions. It's a mad, mad, mad world out there.

  • Julia, July 27, 2015 @ 6:54 pm Reply


    Save Our Schools NJ supports this legislation because we don't believe children should be forced to sit and stare or otherwise punished because their parents refused PARCC for them.

    This bill has nothing to do with teacher evaluations.

    S2767, the Senate version of A4165, has a quarter of the NJ Senate as co-sponsors and the support of more than half of all Senators from both political parties.

    So your idea of democracy is one Senator denying the will of the majority of the Senate?

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