Sunday Leftovers

Senator Ray Lesniak mourns the loss of school reform momentum embodied in "Edugate" (our Race To The Top embarrassment) in the Star-Ledger: "After an honest, committed and well credentialed Bret Schundler was humiliated by Governor Christie? The only person I can think of who has the credentials and the gravitas to take on that position, who can tell the Governor to go pound salt when that's appropriate, is Governor Tom Kean. He's our Obi Wan Kenobi, but that's not likely to happen."

David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center, in Bob Braun's piece on the politicization of and general dysfunction at the DOE: ""The state education department may not be able to perform basic regulatory functions expected of a state agency, No one stays there long enough — and it doesn’t have the staff."

For more, see NJ Spotlight's report on the 2007 KPMG audit of the NJ DOE: "“The structure of the Department is complex, duplicative, and inefficient and not organized to support what should be its primary role, to assist the districts in providing the highest possible educational opportunities to the children of New Jersey."

The Courier-Post quotes Michael Riccards of the Hall Institute, who “predicts Christie will propose significant medical benefit cuts and unions representing government workers, long accustomed to low or nearly nonexistent health care bills, will 'fight like hell.'" Senator Steve Sweeney vows to block legislation that would reduce state worker pensions unless Gov. Christie makes payments into the pension fund, currently running a $46 billion deficit. (Philadelphia Inquirer.)

In today's New York Times, Thomas Friedman reviews a piece by Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson: “The larger cause of [academic] failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation…Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy." Also, Elisabeth Rosenthal looks critically at American education's "no test" philosophy for young children.

A NJ public school teacher makes the case for merit pay.

The Trenton Times looks at continued financial mismanagement in the Trenton Public Schools. Senator Tom Goodwin says that the State Auditor has found only the “tip of the iceberg” and Senator Shirley Turner calls for more state oversight. (Uh, see quotes from Sciarra and KPMG above.)

NJ Spotlight examines a possible drop in the number of kids with disabilities placed in out-of-district special education schools. Diane Autin of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network worries that children are being pulled back without supportive services or parent input.

The Star-Ledger has a FAQ sheet on the $268 million NJ will get from the Edujobs bill.

From Ray Pinney’s Board Blog at New Jersey School Boards Association: "I’m not the only one who believes he [Gov. Christie] is connecting with people. The Democrats realize this too and you can tell by their reaction to his agenda. While they are critical, they are very eager to compromise. I remember one aide to a Democratic legislator say that even in their heavily Democratic district they are receiving many calls in support of Gov. Christie’s education policies and that the NJEA doesn’t get it."