Documents Detail Christie Administration's Plan for School Reform

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Gov. Chris Christie (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

The New Jersey Department of Education is moving forward with a reform plan for the state’s lowest performing schools by using private money from a California-based foundation.

The proposed plan calls for school closures, state operation of failing schools and elimination of union representation in schools that do not improve after sustained efforts to raise student performance.

Documents released this week by the Education Law Center in Newark detail what the Christie administration is planning to do with the schools that serve a majority of the state’s poorest school children. But the N.J. Department of Education cautions that the proposals are merely a work in progress that will all come before the legislature and an updated plan is a more accurate reflection of the direction it’s taking.

The documents were obtained through the state’s open public records law. They detail a grant proposal to the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which promotes education reform through “entrepreneurial philanthropy” that favors charter schools, corporate-style management and increased competition.

“Schools will be freed from the district's collective bargaining agreement and the school's operator will have control over personnel decisions,” according to a draft document called School Turnaround Proposal. It says it’s pending legislation, and confidential.  

The proposal also calls for private contractors to take over failing schools if initial efforts are not successful.

“For staff members not retained by the operator, the state will pay, for one year, the cost of those employees' salaries and benefits,” the draft proposal read.

But the N.J. Department of Education contends it has never tried to hide its plans and that the documents released are just proposals.

“The Commissioner has been vocal about his goal of turning around the lowest-performing schools,” said Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for the department.  “It’s unfortunate that instead of the working with us on what would presumably be a shared goal, the ELC reverts to PR ploys about ‘secret plans’ and ‘privatization efforts.’”

Morgan says much of what was released by the ELC was in the state's No Child Left Behind and approved by the US Department of Education.

So far, the Broad Foundation has given the state $1.9 million. Most of the money is being spent on hiring mid-level managers and training staff for Regional Achievement Centers that are the cornerstone of the reform plan.

Read more about this from NJ Spotlight.

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Comments [3]

Anni from HoHoKus

Ugh. This is all about breaking the democratic-voting unions, and has nothing to do with supporting education or children. 'reform' continues to be code for privatization & the potential devastation this would allow Chris Cerf to wreak is frightening. I wish Broad would instead focus on ameliorating the effects of poverty so that kids can learn AND that he would press the state to do more to directly attack poverty itself.

Aug. 03 2012 08:50 AM
Bud West from Garden Grove, CA

Why turn failing schools over to private contractors when the most comprehensive study of charter schools, done by Stanford University, found that 37% did WORSE than traditional public schools and only 17% did better?

What passes for education reform among the political class is really bald-faced corruption: large corporations and wealthy individuals want to divert taxpayer dollars meant for education into their own pockets and some of that money will be recycled into political donations to the politicians who gave them the contracts and when they leave office, those same politicians will be rewarded with high paying jobs as lobbyists, CEO's, corporate lawyers, and consultants.

I don't think I've ever heard of a congressman, senator, or governor leaving politics to become the head of a teachers union or a school district.

What is really sad about this reform program is that it demonizes teachers who take the job knowing they will never get rich but do it anyway and makes heroes of those whose only goal is to make money. And it's not like those on Wall Street have done such a great job with our manufacturing base, housing market, and retirement funds.

Do you really want your kid's education to be the next bubble that Wall Street inflates and bursts, leaving you to figure out how to teach your child when public schools are a pile of rubble?

Aug. 02 2012 05:43 PM
Hurt Pillow from Manahawkin, NJ

First, the same union structures in districts of poverty also exist in the rest of the state of NJ and they, even according to this, are performing exceptionally well. Second, there is no evidence that these measures will improves those areas but there is evidence to the contrary. Third, the basic reason for the disparity in educational outcomes is due to poverty there are no plans to address that; therefore these punitive efforts aimed at educators will fail as the root cause is again ignored. Finally, the reason why our gap is so big is that as NJ educators have improved outcomes for the lowest, the highest have risen proportionally and the gains of the lowest must be recognized for the success it is.

Aug. 02 2012 09:00 AM

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