NJ Schools Supreme Court Showdown

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Paul Tractenberg, Rutgers School of Law-Newark professor, talks about the constitutional ramifications of a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that Governor Chris Christie wrongly cut school aid. Steve Adubato, Emmy Award winning broadcaster and author of the book What Were They Thinking,  joins the conversation and talks about the New Jersey Supreme Court decision on $1.6 billion in cuts to school budgets.


Steve Adubato and Paul Tractenberg

Comments [24]

Mary from NJ

As a teacher in Newark I can tell you why Newark charter schools might have higher scores than some Newark Public schools: becuase they expell students at will. If students misbehave or are not smart enough for them they get expelled and end up in the public schools. Furthermore, if parents are not willing to follow their rules or don't stick by their contract they are removed from the school. This has caused a two tier system of motivated students and parents and unmotivated students and parents that are more expensive to teach. The charter schools not having ESL or special needs students is just the beginning. Charter schools have created a new form of segregation.

Mar. 26 2011 04:37 PM

Too bad I'm just listening now via podcast because I happen to know exactly how much a "good" NJ education costs.

Graduates from my high school, a couple of decades ago, are now mostly healthy, wealthy and wise, having subsequently graduated from Ivy League and other fine schools, made or sustained impressive wealth, built families and communities and contributed to society. During high school kids were challenged, looked after, well disciplined and pushed to compete. Zero tolerance for bad behavior -- one year 20 out of 100 high school kids were kicked out of a single class for not meeting standards.

There are doctors, artists, world travelers, bankers, regulators, teachers, you name it.

The high school I attended was also attended by many children of legislators who know full well the cost of a "good" education: this year, tuition to this private school is slightly above $30k.

Mar. 25 2011 09:19 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I've read your "studies" and they are biased cr**ola. You think you can pass that stuff off on me? LOL. The ONLY reason that Charter Schools and Public schools had comparable results in this study was because the study "controlled" for variables by means of "regression results", ( beginning on page 15), i.e. instead of taking student performance as indicative of the school's success they "controlled" for the poor performance of Public Schools and Public school teachers by PENALIZING charter school ratings because they have have longer school days and more teachers per student. OMG, the more I read about this stuff the more obvious the UNION FRAUDS become. The whole point of Charter Schools is TO HAVE LONGER SCHOOL DAYS and MORE TEACHERS because they are not being EXTORTED BY THE UNIONS for scandalous salaries and lax, anti-productive work rules ... What a joke, the summation is so obviously a sop to the unions and political interests it's no wonder I've never heard of this ridiculous "study".

Mar. 25 2011 12:30 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

When NJ ranks highly on performance, it obviously takes into account all schools, inclusing, Camden, Newark, JC, etc. Certainly there is room for improvement, just like the rest of the US, but the fact is that it's just a high achieving state in terms of education, period. The state wants high levels of education for its diverse populace.

The real bottom line is that you can't back up your unsubstantiated claims, especially outrageous ones like this:

"Public schools are a relic and public school teachers, not all but most, are overpaid, indolent losers with zero potential to ever be good teachers - we all secretly know this, it's just hard to admit it because of the political pressure unions can exert."

Sorry. No, we do not "all secretly know this..." Where do I get in on this secret? It's not there.

Education experts say successful, "transformational" schools in poverty-stricken areas, for instance, do NOT depends on whether the school is private or public, whether they get vouchers or not, but complete commitment by the entire school system to do whatever it takes to .

Listen to the foremost US school reformer, Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, talk about what is necessary and an example of a public school principal achieving success (in Newark, no less). She also says that while teacher unions need to reform themselves to build a reform movement, the biggest problem is school district and the American public's value of education.

So basically it's, again, the methods used, structure, and especially a culture of success, not the funding mechanism - which you are totally hung up on - that are most important. No problem, I'm not against private schools, charter schools, etc. It seems that you are just reflexively and ideologically full of bile towards unions, in general.

Fine. That doesn't mean that facts are on your side when the record of private vs. public schools are equal in terms of success when they have a similar views and establish a mandate to achieve success.

In summation: "This article compares student achievement of fourth graders in charter schools and district public schools in Newark, New Jersey. We find that Newark and New Jersey’s charter schools mirror the educational inequalities of the state as a whole, as well as
its Abbott Districts. The data indicate that charter schools are similar to district urban
public schools, with pockets of excellence and mediocrity..."

Another source:

Mar. 24 2011 02:54 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Yes, I am against public education and generally public education is awful, especially in urban areas, anyone knows that, take a look at our nation's test scores compared to other developed nations - hell, take a look at them compared to developing nations like China!

It's sad really. The government is good at some things,Defense, Medicaid/Care/SSI and I am certainly for a public option in health care! 1000% But that would mean a "single payer" controlling prices (and therefore costs) delivered to PRIVATE Health Care providers like Doctors/Clinics/Hospitals, etc. Public schools are a relic and public school teachers, not all but most, are overpaid, indolent losers with zero potential to ever be good teachers - we all secretly know this, it's just hard to admit it because of the political pressure unions can exert.

The best thing would be for the guaranteed education every child is promised (and should have) be privatized. This would save the Federal and State governments trillions of dollars over time and yield the sort of gains in education that we cannot imagine at the moment. The market is good for some things, like phasing out failing industries, you can't send US kids overseas to be educated so this would be both a boon to the economy AND a tax/cost savings to everyone - it could literally save America from itself - but it will never happen, thanks to people like you. Failing schools keep failing, good schools share money with bad and public teachers get fatter, slower, more jaded, etc on the public ticket. Think if K-12 education had private schools actually COMPETING for kids and their voucher $, which would be very significant if you could cut out lazy teacher 's unions? Failing schools would close, good one's would thrive, expand and be copied everywhere. But no, better to have guaranteed mediocrity so a bunch of losers can have guaranteed pensions/health care and ridiculous salaries for poor performance.

Sure, some NJ SUBURBAN schools are great but suburban schools in most states are fine - they are safe, homogeneous and well funded. They can stay "public" so long as they perform, if they start to fail than they are privatized, simple policy really and a good incentive to keep the teacher's on their toes.

Mar. 24 2011 11:18 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Mr. Bad -

You declaim people that have "pro-teacher" sentiment. Does that mean that you are anti-teacher?

Also, you're characterization of what teachers do, etc. are baseless. Who has ever argued:

> Social problems are insurmountable? Everyone agrees that they are difficult, but not impossible; it's a matter of methods or approach, not whether it can be done or not.

> If you have one of the more difficult and important jobs (sounds like you don't think education is important), you should get paid high salaries. And if you're talking NJ, by the way, it's students are at the top, if not the best in achievement and test scores. I guess teachers there have high achievement deserve better salaries. The same could be said for those teachers that have to deal with the most troubled, the poorest and those with the least amount of resources.

> That teachers admit that they "can't teach kids"? Again, maybe it's difficult, but your blanket statement makes it seem that teaching poor kids is impossible, which on its face is inaccurate. Again, it comes down to how its done, not if it can be.

Mar. 24 2011 10:59 AM

This segment was a perfect example of what's wrong with American media, and in particular non-commercial media -- public affairs as "balanced" entertainment.

Two guests come on the program and make diametrically opposed factual claims -- the per pupil cost of education in NJ, the per pupil cost of charter schools nationwide, the per pupil cost at Mr. Abado's father's school. Neither Brian nor his producers anticipated this difference, or did anything to try to settle it. The facts are crucial to coming to an informed opinion, but don't you know, reality is nuanced. Just invent the facts as please you, and broadcast them, with WNYC's help.

Meanwhile, a lawyer who understands the law is debating a fellow who knows nothing about the law or the school system or the teaching profession, on a legal question. Highly informative!

And this passes for debate and "balance". Great show.

Mar. 24 2011 10:57 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

I second Laurie from Princeton's sentiment about Adubato: Complex subjects - NJ's budget can't be said to be anything else - demand nuanced approaches.

@ David from Brooklyn -

New York is an example of how the overindulgence of the ADVANTAGED, for ITS ENTIRE HISTORY, has LARGELY CREATED AN EXCELLENT YET SEPARATE educational system APART FROM THE REST OF THE NY. Now New York is the Mecca for the OVER-PRIVILEGED culture to perpetuate itself because it can BUY VOTES for itself, and find every means to remain AND EVEN GAIN PRIVILEGES AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS.

Mar. 24 2011 10:37 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I love how all the pro-teacher posters RAVE about how insurmountable "social problems" are but have no issue with taking some of the highest teacher salaries in the nation.

If it's the fault of these kids, their parents and poverty that kids can't learn (nonsense IMO) then why should anyone pay them more than a babysitter salary? They admit they cannot teach kids, so why not pay them accordingly? It's a fair question.

Mar. 24 2011 10:36 AM

One of Christie's cuts include capping the salaries of public school superintendents. But only public schools superintendents - not charter school superintendents. Ask Abudato about that because his family (MIchele Abudato, his sister) is a recipient of $170,000 for supervising a Newark charter school of 200 students special needs children.

Mar. 24 2011 10:34 AM
Richard from Hunterdon County, NJ

Why are schools expected to solve all of the chronic social problems that seem to plague many urban area's. We need to separate social services from education even though they do need to interact.

The $100M Facebook donation to Newark will prove to be the same waste of money that the billions already provided to deal with "social problems" that are incorrectly called education.

Problems can't be solved until they are dealt with honestly.

Mar. 24 2011 10:30 AM
john from office

David, you are so right, and the caller from brooklyn is an example of that. It is the fault of the teachers, because they dont understand black students, that is laughable. The fault lies in the home, lack of help and interest at home.

Mar. 24 2011 10:29 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Money obviously makes a difference but at a certain point the return diminishes significantly.

Once a certain standard is reached piling on more cash will NOT create better outcomes, it will only go towards more useless union protected teachers and their salaries. The most important thing is to control costs by privatizing as much as possible, get the unions out of the equation as much as possible and push vouchers.

Mar. 24 2011 10:28 AM
David from Brooklyn

New York is an example of how the overindulgence to the disadvantaged, for the past 50 years, has ruined a once outstanding educational system. Now New York is the Mecca for the disadvantaged culture to perpetuate itself because it can vote for itself, and find every means to remain underprivileged.

Mar. 24 2011 10:25 AM
Edward from NJ

Any comment from the guest on the fact that some charter school administrators aren't adhering to Christie's salary caps?

Mar. 24 2011 10:25 AM

One big problem with this type of discussion is that no one seems to agree on the numbers. For example, how much is spent per student in Newark, NJ and the country? Ask people on different sides of this issue and they'll give you incredibly different numbers. Why can't some of these simple facts be agreed upon?

Mar. 24 2011 10:24 AM
Laurie from Princeton

Please leave Steve Adubato off your future guest lists. He's a generator of noise, not light. He is raising the level of conflict in the discussion without raising the quality of the analysis. The problems of NJ budget and education are complex, and he's an advocate for one very simplistic solution. Forget about him. Thanks.

Mar. 24 2011 10:22 AM
john from office

Again I will be called a racist.

Where are the parents, it starts there. A Black school should not equal a bad, dangerous low proforming school. Where are the parents.

That is an issue that has to be addressed by black leadership and it is not.

Mar. 24 2011 10:22 AM
dbklyn from bklyn

your questions and tone of incredulity are driving me crazy...

1. is an alleged thief's financial situation relevant to deciding whether a particular action complies with the law?

2. whether $28k is the right number is something for politicians to address, not a judge.

Mar. 24 2011 10:22 AM
Grant Herreid

Oregon also does not let you pump your own gas!

Mar. 24 2011 10:17 AM
CHIP from North Plainfield, NJ

I am a tax paying resident of North Plainfield, NJ...the effects of cutting $800 million last year and restoring $200 million this year towards education, just does not add up. I have two kids in elementary school...both their class sizes have JUMPED from 20 (last year) to 27 (this year) students, and test scores have been inconsistent, at best. the teaching staff has been drasticly reduced...some of them have move to other schools in N.P. Calls to the Bd. of Ed. for an explanation about the teaching staff reductions gets you vague responses, but overwhelmingly blame the Gov.

Mar. 24 2011 10:17 AM
RLewis from the bowery

Christy is taking something that is only partly correct, and, by just saying it forcefully and often, trying to make people believe that the statement is an absolute. It's not. If NJers buy into that, then they deserve what they get... or don't get.

Mar. 24 2011 10:12 AM
Helen from Newark

Money matters to a certain point. But it's really more about how that money is used. I taught in Newark, which spends thousands more per pupil ($19K vs $13K) than the state average, but we have horrible educational outcomes. The reason for this are multi-factorial, but I can certainly tell you that a lot of that money did not go straight to the children.

Mar. 24 2011 10:11 AM

If more money doesn't provide a better education, then why do the wealthy send their children to expensive private schools?

Mar. 24 2011 10:05 AM

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