Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reactions to Gov. Christie's Education Cuts

Marie Bilik, NJSBA Executive Director:
For too long, too many state leaders have criticized local school boards for contract settlements that, in fact, were made possible by union-initiated proposals that were put into state law. We hope today’s budget message represents the beginning of the end of that scenario.
Barbara Keshishian, NJEA President:
Chris Christie claims he respects our members, but his actions suggest otherwise. Today’s budget address was a new low, even for a governor who clearly disrespects all public employees.
Star-Ledger Editorial Board:
New Jersey’s existing 4 percent cap is weak and porous. And local referendums on school spending today are mostly advisory, given that they can be overruled by town councils or the state. Christie offers a stronger and more elegant solution
The Record Editorial Board
Education is taking a huge hit in the Christie budget — he proposes a reduction of $819 million in state funding. It is an extraordinary cut, and one that will have significant ramifications. The governor criticized the teachers union's political clout. "Political muscle fueled by intimidation tactics, political bullying and smears of public officials who dare to disagree," is how he described it.

Those were more than fighting words. That was the opening round in what will surely be a bare-knuckles brawl between the governor and the unions during Christie's four-year term. It is a fight long overdue
Philadelphia Inquirer:
When Gov. Christie told school districts yesterday afternoon they should expect aid cuts up to 5 percent of their overall budgets, Jim Devereaux, the Cherry Hill district's assistant superintendent of business, couldn't believe what he was hearing...The governor also took aim at the New Jersey Education Association, the union representing most of the state's teachers, encouraging legislators to enact changes to bargaining and employee benefits that would help districts contain labor costs.
Barbara Keshishian, union president, fired back, accusing Christie of "carrying out a political vendetta against NJEA" and hurting students by attacking school staff.

The New York Times:
Mr. Christie’s budget stands as a stark example of how a fiscal conservative determined not to raise taxes grapples with the budget of a once-expansive, now-humbled state government in challenging economic times.
Deborah Yaffe, Historian of NJ's School Funding Wars:
Will [Christie's proposed education cuts] be enough to bring the Abbott case back from the dead? Hard to say, although the court’s May ruling made clear that School Funding Reform Act would be constitutional only if fully funded, the justices did not specify how severe the underfunding had to be in order to render the law unconstitutional...The administration says that districts getting less than 5 percent of their budgets from the state — in other words, the wealthiest suburbs — will lose all their basic aid. Historically, the politically savvy voters in those districts haven’t taken kindly to cuts they believe threaten their treasured schools.

Michael P. Riccards, Executive Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy-NJ:
Christie’s cuts are necessary, if only as a form of shock treatment; large numbers of people have come to believe their government is dysfunctional, if not simply corrupt. But even with Christie’s tough love, we still need to rethink the need for new revenue streams. For example, school funding is mainly based on property taxes, and the historic reason is that property was the major form of wealth in the nation and in most of Western Europe for so long.
Ben Dworkin, Director of The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University:
He is a conservative governor who is acting like a conservative. It's a question whether anyone is going to follow.
Bob Ingle at Politics Patrol:
Christie singled out the teachers union, saying its leadership has used its money and political clout to create two systems in New Jersey — those who enjoy rich benefits and those who pay for them. He called it a system that can’t be sustained “a system fueled by mandatory dues of more than $700 a year taken out of every one of the nearly $200,000 teachers’ paychecks.”

And the teachers are complaining about having to pay more for their benefits? Why don’t they get their dues lowered and use that toward their benefits?
Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Chair of the lower house‘s Education Committee:
Make no mistake. The pain will be felt in virtually every classroom.Gov. Christie should do what he promised during the recently completed gubernatorial campaign and come up with a new plan that invests in education.
Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer:
Spencer said Christie's speech was unnecessarily hostile toward the teacher's union and unnecessarily aggressive.

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