Christie and NJEA: Work Together for NJ

The failure of NJ to receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) award after two attempts further lays bare the rift between NJEA and Governor Christie – a rift that also existed with prior administrations but grew more bitter during the current year. Tenure reform, merit pay, teacher evaluation, layoffs, and student performance data are some of the divisive issues. The governor’s antagonistic attitude and frequent frontal attacks against teachers exacerbate the problem. For NJ to maintain excellence in education both groups need to work together for solutions.

The infamous failure during Christie’s re-write to answer properly a simple question regarding 2008-09 education funding resulted in the deduction of 4.8 points. The panel reviewer score sheet indicates that as the total number of points possible was 500, and NJ received a score of 437.8, reviewers deducted 62.2 points throughout the proposal. A look at the technical review form indicates the categories in which the reviewers deducted points and suggests areas that must be addressed in discussions between the governor and NJEA.

Securing local education associations (LEA) commitment and translating its participation into state-wide impact – 14 points deducted.  Reviewers in the first round noted that only 387 out of 656 districts agreed to participate and only four district presidents provided a signature, and they felt that “this lack of greater involvement will challenge NJ’s efforts to meet its goals.” In the second round they said that “while the lack of union support may create some problems, it now seems that implementation can proceed with existing LEA support.”

Using broad stakeholder support – 4 points deducted. Reviewers: “The lack of support from 269 districts and the NJEA leaders supports a low rating.”  

Fully implementing a state-wide data system – 10 points deducted. Reviewers: “NJ has implemented only 7 of the 12 elements of a state-wide system”

Using data to improve instruction – 5 points deducted. Reviewers: “NJ does not provide a researcher’s perspective on what studies the data will be used for.”

Using evaluation to inform key decisions – 3 points deducted. Reviewers: Participating local districts understand that they must use evaluation data to inform professional development, compensation, and tenure. With over 40% of LEA’s not participating, the potential for state-wide impact may be limited.  

In conclusion the reviewers say overall our plan “is generally strong and well-designed and meets the absolute priority as a comprehensive approach to education reform.” However, the reviewers add, “The biggest question for this proposal is whether the reforms will truly make a statewide impact in light of the non-support of local and state NEA affiliates.”

Certainly in NJ we have the foundation for continued excellence and even stronger results. To move forward the governor must end his vitriol and return to negotiations, and NJEA must lower its resistance to some of the reforms and recommit itself to seeking solutions. The NJEA and Schundler moved closer toward healing the rift until the governor intervened and tore up their agreement. This rift hurts students, teachers and all New Jerseyans.  

Comments (8)

  1. Adam L

    sure, they can do some more, but let’s look at reality here –

    before he was even inaugurated, Christie was demonizing teachers, the NJEA and the public school system – one of the best in the country.

    He said they were using the students as “drug mules”.  He called on towns to vote down the budgets unless salaries were cut.  He cut funding.

    He appointed Bret Schundler – an antagonistic figure towards strengthening public schools in the state.

    and yet, the NJEA and Schundler worked together to put an application together that would have gotten those lost points about union and local buy in.  But when Christie stubbornly took over the process and put his pig headed application together, he didn’t consult Schundler or the NJEA – and THAT is why those points were lost.

    The underlying message is one that yes, they should work together.  But even the NJEA took steps to do right by students – the future – and there hasn’t been one ounce of anything other than antagonism and immature self serving finger pointing and power plays by Christie.

    How is the NJEA supposed to support things they never saw in a changed application by someone that wants to see their demise?

    Where is the responsibility in this diary for Christie’s actions since the beginning of this year?

    Where is the call for accountability or any action on Christie’s part for the other 18 points that were lost (14 and 4) based directly and solely on his actions in this process?

    I think the thought is noble, but the direction and call is misdirected here.  The one person who can change this is Christie – no matter what the NJEA does or doesn’t do.  And frankly, they have done a lot given the incredibly large and sustained attack on public education.

    Most importantly, the students – our children – lose because of Christie’s actions and spiteful behavior.

  2. William Weber (WjcW)

    Corzine (who enjoyed wide union support) should have scored a much better than Christie. And yet Christie’s application represented an improvement of 200 points.

    Why do you think that was?

  3. carolh

    because the LEA wouldn’t commit. Seems pretty obvious the blame isn’t just at Christie’s feet here.  Compromise takes TWO sides to work a deal.  The local school boards have never had to compromise.  

    I remember just last year when local residents voted down the school budget, the school board angrily shoved their way into our council meetings DEMANDING that we not even look into the budget. They were arrogant, angry, petulant and not in th least bit anxious to work out a solution based on compromise.

    The LEA withholding support seems to have cost more points than the clerical error.  So, lets be honest here, the educators want to keep their 5 vice-principals per small school while paying the teachers and teachers aides paupers wages.  They want to keep a system that is essentially unsustainable.

  4. Adam L

    not finished and put on hold by Christie?  I thought it wasn’t submitted by the Corzine administration.

    Either way, that isn’t the issue – the issue in this diary is Christie and the NJEA, not Corzine’s relationship with them or anything else for that matter.

  5. Hopeful

    I see a score of 387 for Phase I for New Jersey.

    Just as a fact, not saying improving by 50 is or isn’t good, but I don’t think it is 200.

  6. huntsu

    The NJEA didn’t withhold anything.  They signed on to the application they worked out with Schundler, and then Christie played Lucy with the ball and pulled it away.  

    The NJEA was never SHOWN the application Christie submitted, so how could they possibly have supported it?

  7. William Weber (WjcW)

    to a much weaker application that did not contain the reforms the Obama administration was pushing.

    Are you suggesting that given the chance, they would have supported merit pay and tenure reform?

  8. William Weber (WjcW)

    I know there’s a big difference. I just had 200 stuck in my head for some reason.


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