To the surprise of many, New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto chose a little-known assemblywoman, Marlene Caride, to take over Patrick Diegnan's slot as Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. Caride has little background in education issues and Prieto passed over other more actively-involved legislators like Troy Singleton and Mila Jasey. According to NJ Spotlight, "Like Diegnan, Caride leans left [sic] on the big education issues -- from calling for a pause in high-stakes testing to pushing back against the Christie administration’s embrace of charter schools. Yesterday, for instance, she took her stand against Gov. Chris Christie’s latest proposals to loosen regulation further on charter schools, including teacher certification."
Speaking of charter regulations: "Gov. Chris Christie last week announced a slew of regulatory proposals for easing the way for charter schools in the state, including loosening requirements for teacher certification and for expanding facilities. Still light on details, the proposals are apparently still in the works." (NJ Spotlight; for more information on Christie's proposals, see here.)
And speaking of charter schools, this from the Star-Ledger: "In just four years nine freshmen from Trenton's Foundation Collegiate Academy [one of Trenton's charters] will be on their way to college debt-free. The scholarships come courtesy of the Give Something Back Foundation - a nonprofit organization that provides mentors and scholarships to help Pell Grant-eligible kids go to college."
"I was pretty excited because I didn't think I would get in," said one of the students, Kristofer Guadron. "I was basically in denial."
Amidst the continual hubbub from NJEA, Education Law Center, and Save Our Schools-NJ that the state isn't fully funding the unfundable school aid formula (SFRA) , Jeff Bennett at New Jersey Education Aid explains that, in fact, rarely has any governor -- even Jon Corzine in the first year of SFRA -- manage to do so. Jeff quotes Frank Belluscio of N.J. School Boards Association: "the formula has been fully funded maybe three times since the law was enacted in 1975." I have always assumed that in 2008, SFRA's first year, Corzine pulled it off. But, Jeff explains, Corzine did so only by using over $1 billion from the one-shot federal infusion of funds called ARRA, or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. You learn something every day. Phil Murphy, a gubernatorial hopeful cited in Jeff's post for making misleading statements about school funding, should learn something as well.
"At first I thought 'this can't be real, I'm in a dream or something,'" Guadron said. "I tried to pinch myself but it didn't work - this is actually real life."
"This is four years - paid," he said. "It's like you're set basically."
As long as we're on the topic of fiscal sustainability, Mercatus just ranked N.J. 48th among all states in fiscal solvency.
On a cash basis, New Jersey has between 0.63 and 2.00 times the cash needed to cover short-term liabilities. Revenues cover 94 percent of expenses, for a deficit of $396 per capita. New Jersey is reliant on debt financing, with a net asset ratio of −1.46. Liabilities are 2.1 times the size of total assets, resulting in a long-term liability per capita of $9,285. Total debt is $41.84 billion. Unfunded pension liabilities are $188.40 billion on a guaranteed-to-be-paid basis, and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) are $66.80 billion. These three liabilities are equal to 58 percent of total state personal income.
Lead update from The Record: "As results come in from water testing at schools across North Jersey, communities are finding that lead contamination, long associated with cities and low-income areas, is not just an urban problem. From affluent northern towns to middle-class suburbs to downtown Paterson, findings show lead is streaming out of water spouts in many local schools, and everyone from local officials to the governor is focusing new attention on the long-neglected problem."
The Star-Ledger reports that "a bill before the state Legislature (S1210) would subject public workers who regularly deal with children submit to a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) check. Currently, such employees undergo criminal background checks. But according to the bill's sponsors, CARI checks turn up any instances where the state Department of Children and Families has substantiated a claim of child abuse under the "preponderance of evidence" standard."
Schools are starting to move away from ranking students based on GPA's, the Press of Atlantic City reports: "The change represents a growing local and national trend of encouraging students to compete against themselves rather than one another." And a North Jersey high school is eliminating marking periods.