Sunday Leftovers

Where to begin? No lazy July in Jersey for followers of NJ’s attempts to reform public education. Take the feud between Senate President Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie: how pissed is Sen. Sweeney at the Governor for rejecting Democratic legislators' attempt to fully fund the school funding formula (SFRA)? So pissed that, according to Keith Olbermann, Sweeney "“unleashed thirteen epithets at the conservative darling, only twelve of which we can even mention fully here.” More concretely Sweeney told the Star-Ledger that Christie is "a rotten prick."

Politics is such an erudite occupation in the Garden State.

In an interview with The Record, Sen. Sweeney suggested that Gov. Christie's motivation in not fulling funding SFRA is to provoke suburban school districts to sue the State for not receiving their legislated state aid. Then, according to this scenario, a newly configured Supreme Court will reverse its earlier decision to uphold the school funding formula.

Kabuki theater or genuine outrage? Patrick Murray concludes that “while Steve Sweeney firmly believes in the education reforms that sit on his legislative docket, he now has little political or personal incentive to move them forward. If he doesn’t, the big political loser in this dust-up may ultimately be Chris Christie.” Meanwhile Sen. Sweeney told Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger that bills for teacher merit pay and reforms to seniority are "dead on arrival."

But he also told the Star-Ledger that he "won’t call a vote on a bill to require local voters to approve charter schools, which Christie opposes, because it would "'absolutely shut down charter schools.'"

Moving right along, NJ Spotlight scored a big interview with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who confirms that she will refuse to bring the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the voucher bill, to the Assembly floor for a vote. She also echoed Senator Sweeney in deriding part of Gov. Christie’s education reform platform: "I don’t believe it’s about tenure reform or all the other ideas being thrown out there," she said. "That still won’t get to the core of how do we serve at-risk kids."

In spite of the dust-ups, the Governor’s Education Transformation Task Force will hold its public hearings tomorrow and Tuesday to hear stakeholders’ opinions on teacher evaluations and tenure.

Ray Broach, Superintendent of Trenton Public Schools, is reconfiguring school space for the buildings that have failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress for years. Reports the Trenton Times,
While district officials are hoping that the restructuring, which was formally approved by the school board last month, will reinvigorate perennially struggling schools, some worry that, unless coupled with substantive changes to curriculum, the initiative will serve only to take bad teachers out of one school and put them in another.
The new anti-bullying policies for public schools issued by the DOE, reports the Press of Atlantic City, are confounding to local school boards and administrators. The requirements are confusing, the promised support isn’t there, and “the potential workload brought on by the new regulations could inundate schools, which in many cases are operating on leaner staffs than they were a few years ago.”

Mark Zuckerberg, who made a $100 million donation to the Newark Public Schools, met Friday with Mayor Cory Booker and Chris Christie.

The Star-Ledger
reports on home-schooling in NJ which, according to Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf, remains “a wildly unregulated area.” For example, about 200 kids receive instruction from a website called Conservapedia, which teaches them that “modern kangaroos are descended from two ancestors on Noah’s Ark," "public schools make homosexuals," and "atheists tend to be fat, and obesity impairs brain function."

Neil Brown, a former social studies teacher, says that NJ’s HSPA, the high school proficiency test, is “ an absolute fraud and an abject failure in meeting its putative objectives” and should be replaced with a sort of citizenship test.

Correction: Steve Sweeney's remarks about not calling a vote on the bill requiring a public vote on a new charter school did not come from Tom Moran's piece. It's here.