NJEA fighting Governor Christie and Obama administration on education reform
Governor Christie and state eductation chief Bret Schundler are proposing a reform plan that would reward teachers based on a far-out and radical concept–actually teaching students.
The proposal is being made as the state tries to bid on Federal funding for education reforms:
The overhaul plan will be included in New Jersey’s new application for Race to the Top, a federal grant program the Obama administration is using to reward states for school reforms. New Jersey could get up to $400 million if selected.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the president on this,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “This is an incredibly special moment in American history, where you have Republicans in New Jersey agreeing with a Democratic president on how to get reform.”
Christie said adopting the proposed changes are “very necessary” to get the much-needed federal funding for the cash-strapped state. But it was unclear if the governor can get the reforms through the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
“It is our responsibility to implement these kinds of reforms,” said Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, who unveiled the plan. “It is what is morally right and it will bring dramatic improvements in the education system to the benefit of all children.”
However, Schundler said many details — including the cost of the new statewide computer system — have not been worked out.
There you have it. Governor Christie is willing to work with the Obama administration to bring significant change to our state’s bloated and inefficient education system.
So who’s standing in the way?
The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said it has doubts about the proposal. The plan is “terrible policy” that relies too heavily on standardized test scores, NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said.
“If someone said to you, ‘Your job is dependent on raising student test scores,’ what are you going to spend your time doing?,” Wollmer said. “They will have to teach to the test all of the time.”
Teachers would also have to wait five years, instead of three, to get tenure under the proposal. The state would also start a “bonus pool” to reward teachers who work in the state’s lowest-performing districts and allow the best-performing teachers to open their own schools.
I’m no fan of taking Federal money for state and local education–I think the Federal government has no place there. But all of that aside, the politics here are such that it’s almost inevitable–or at least it was at one time.
Let’s put it this way–if Corzine were still in office, and continued his ass-kissing of the NJEA as he did for eight years, I would suspect that this Federal money would already be slated for New Jersey before the bidding process was even completed.
But Governor Christie is not Jon Corzine, and his battles with the NJEA since January have been well documented. This is a smart move by Christie. Given the near-inevitablity of Federal money to the state (money that the Feds would have wanted to go straight to the unions, I’m sure), why not elbow out the greedy unions, and try to implement some real and significant education reform? Because if not, it would just go to the NJEA to line their union bosses’ pockets. In other words, business as usual in the Garden State.