Corzine’s education policies were 180 degrees from Obama’s proposed education reforms. Other than presiding over what is arguably the best early childhood education program in the nation, Corzine’s education policies were astonishingly stale and regressive. His most visible and self-touted "reform" in recent memory was a change in the state funding formula, which shifted money away from high-poverty urban districts to high-growth suburbans. The latter didn’t notice, and community leaders in the former were not appreciative. Bad policy, bad politics.Barone also makes the point that Christie’s education platform, specifically on charter schools and merit pay, puts him closer than Corzine to President Obama’s agenda,, noting that “if one really wanted to really go out on a limb, one could say that Corzine’s defeat was if anything an endorsement of Obama’s education policies, rather than a rejection of them.”
Wishful thinking from the Director of Federal Policy at Democrats for Education Reform? Maybe not. The universe of education reform is sort of post-partisan anyway. (In a more Manichean world, the phrase “Democrats for Education Reform” would be either redundant or oxymoronic. Right now it’s neither.) Can a hardcore Republican like Christie, fiscally and socially conservative, share an education agenda with a Democratic president? Apparently so. Just look at the signatories at Education Equality Project: Cory Booker, Jeb Bush, Al Sharpton, Newt Gingrich. Not much of a stretch to link Chris Christie’s education agenda with President Obama’s.
Christie’s challenges are many: he may not put much truck in union alliances, but his Legislature does. NJEA, among the most militant state teachers’ unions, is not about to go gently into that good night on issues like charter schools, vouchers, and merit pay. Race To The Top incentives give him a short-term window to push hard on charter school legislation that doesn’t get the vapors when confronted by the faintest opposition. If he’s committed to expanding successful charters (like Robert Treat Academy where he gave his first post-election remarks yesterday) then we’d expect to see a fast turn-around time on proposals for some our most inglorious urban districts like Camden or Trenton, or non-Abbotts like Willingboro. Same for linking test performance, hopefully growth models, to teacher performance. But he’ll have to work swiftly and decisively. We’ll get to see if he’s really the “change” candidate in education over the next six months or so. Meanwhile, we live in hope, clinging to that tree limb.