Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday unveiled what he describes as a comprehensive education reform agenda to address teacher accountability, improving low-performing schools, and rewarding those that do better.
The governor said the plan, unveiled in an No Child Left Behind waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education, is shaped in a manner consistent with President Obama’s national education reform package and includes his education proposals that are awaiting consideration in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
“There is no issue more important to the future of our state and country than putting the opportunity of a quality education within every child’s reach, no matter their zip code or economic circumstances,” Christie said. “Our education reforms, contained in four specific bills sitting in the Legislature today, are aggressive in meeting this challenge, bipartisan and in-line with the Obama Administration’s national agenda to raise standards, strengthen accountability systems, support effective teachers and focus more resources to the classroom.
“These reforms provide a comprehensive approach that recognizes there is no single solution,” the governor said. “For a new accountability system to be effective and successful in benefitting children, we must have all of the tools that are provided for in this legislation. A piecemeal, incremental approach will not turn around our failing schools or close the achievement gap.”
Outlined in the fall of 2010 and subsequently introduced by July of this year, the four bills, Christie maintains, are consistent with the Obama’s No Child Left Behind waiver requirements. The measures have been sitting in the Legislature for four months.
The governor said the four bills go hand in hand with bipartisan education efforts to fix failing schools, broaden school choice for students in underperforming districts, identify and reward effective teachers, and support teachers who are not effective.
“New Jersey ranks among the top states in the nation in student achievement overall, but we cannot play in the margins with half-measures and expect to finally bring real, long-term change to the children in persistently failing districts who are not getting the education they deserve,” Christie said. “It’s time for the New Jersey Legislature to step up with my administration, President Obama, (U.S. Education) Secretary Duncan and a national, bipartisan movement to act boldly and give every child the education they deserve.”
The bipartisan package of bills includes:
School Children First Act (S-2881/A-4168: The bill would create a statewide educator evaluation system consistent with the goals of the Obama administration, ties tenure to effectiveness, ends forced placements and Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) personnel policies by using both seniority and educator effectiveness in staffing decisions, and reforms compensation systems. These changes will allow New Jersey to identify and reward the most effective teachers in a meaningful and fair way, while also better supporting those comparative few teachers who are not effective.
Charter Reform Bill: The bill provides critical updates to strengthen and improve New Jersey’s charter law. The bill increases the number of charter school authorizers, permits public schools to be converted to charter schools by local boards of education as well as the state Department Of Education commissioner, and increase charter autonomy while making them more accountable.
- Opportunity Scholarship Act (S-1872/A-2810): The bill would provide tax credits to entities contributing to scholarships for low-income students.
- Urban Hope Act (S-3002/A-4264): The bill provides for the creation of as many as ten “transformation school projects” in five of the State’s worst performing districts.
Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in September that he will consider proposals from states seeking to waive provisions of NCLB if they indicate a strong commitment to improving student performance, reducing the achievement gap, and turning around underperforming schools. A waiver would allow districts and states additional flexibility in providing support and interventions to struggling schools.