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NJ: Vouchers Strike Back

“Long Debated, Legislature Revives Talk of School Vouchers”
by John Mooney
NJ Spotlight
New Jersey Spotlight, NJ
March 16, 2012
After a winter hiatus, a trimmed-down Opportunity Scholarship Act proposal is back in the legislature with a prominent new sponsor in the state Assembly but the loss of another in the Senate.
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/12/0316/0145/

After a winter hiatus, a trimmed-down Opportunity Scholarship Act proposal is back in the legislature with a prominent new sponsor in the state Assembly but the loss of another in the Senate.

State Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden) yesterday said he filed a new bill that would include just seven districts as part of the pilot to provide scholarships — or vouchers — to low-income students to go to schools of their choice, public or private.

More notably, the second primary sponsor on the bill is state Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), the Assembly majority leader who has said he would support a smaller pilot and now has his name attached to one.

“I am not a believer in vouchers , but I do believe in a few select communities where children are a prisoner of their own poverty and denied a right to an education,” Greenwald said yesterday.

The new Assembly bill comes a week after state Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. (R-Union) filed a new version of the bill he has long sponsored but also in fewer districts. But it was missing a key sponsor, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the longtime and prominent backer of the bill who gave it key support on the Democratic side.

Lesniak yesterday said he dropped his sponsorship for a variety of reasons, including the closing by the Archdiocese of Newark of another prominent Catholic school in his hometown of Elizabeth. St. Patrick High School, the basketball powerhouse, might have been saved if a voucher bill passed, he said. The

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Tenure Reform Bill Takes Heat

A few critical words at the top of page 14 of the proposed tenure reform bill caused quite a stir yesterday at a Senate hearing on the measure.

The new rules — which redefine how New Jersey teachers earn and keep tenure — will not apply to “those who acquired tenure prior to the effective date” of the bill.

In other words, the bill put forward by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the bill that has been given the best chance yet of overhauling New Jersey’s century-old tenure system, will be grandfathered in. Read More…

NJ Spotlight: Administration's New Message to Charter Schools: Quality Not Quantity

With only four of 60 charter applicants approved, Christie and Cerf signal that the rules are changing for charter schools — as are the politics

By John Mooney
NJ Spotlight
October 3, 2011

When the Christie administration last week announced it approved just four new charter schools out of nearly 60 applicants, it came with a message of quality over quantity from Gov. Chris Christie’s top education officials.

But there were clearly a few factors in play, from the politics of the upcoming legislative election to the changing rules in the department itself. For example, two of the approvals announced last week were part of larger networks of schools that are gaining favored status with the state.

Nevertheless, for anyone thinking the movement is slowing, 25 more schools are still slated to open next fall, the biggest new class yet. And there may be more to come.

Politics Matter

There was no doubt that Gov. Chris Christie was hearing grumbles from his Republican base. Many of his suburban legislators either voted for or abstained on new controls on charter schools being trumpeted by Democrats.

Christie himself had long been a lightning rod for the debate over charter schools, making their expansion a centerpiece of his education platform. When his administration last spring approved 23 new schools — by far the largest group ever — he went into Newark to announce the news schools himself.

But even before that, resentment was growing in the suburbs about the sudden advent of the charter schools in their midst, drawing dollars from their cash-strapped districts.

And as the months passed, Christie and his acting education commissioner, Chris Cerf, began to back off and publicly questioned whether charter schools were needed in relatively well-performing districts. Christie even said so in one of his national speeches in Iowa, before he started openly flirting with a

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Charting a course for reform

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s terrifically honest keynote address at this year’s Excellence in Action National Summit in Washington, DC:

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The Antidote

christie-antidoteGarden State Governor Chris Christie doesn’t mince words, and doesn’t suffer fools. His reaction to a compromised school choice bill, watered down to allow for swift passage in the legislature:

“If you gut the purpose of the program to begin with, what good is it?…

If you compromise yourself away to nothing, then I don’t know what you’ve won…

(Legislators) are irrelevant in this in comparison to the children in 200 plus failing schools in New Jersey who are being stripped of hope…

People wonder why there is violence in our cities. Violence is commited, in the main, at least in my experience, by people without hope.

They wonder why there is drug abuse in our cities. People who turn to drugs are generally people with out hope.

They wonder why families are disintegrating in our cities. Families disintegrate because of the poison of a lack of hope.

And the greatest antidote to a lack of hope is a world class education“.

(Watch his complete response.)

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