Tag Archive: Education Law Center

Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Investment in Preschool Would Mean Savings in the Future

Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetNoontime every Mon & Wed as the legislature considers NJ’s next budget, we present our 7-week series – with Anti-Poverty Network – of where NJ should be allocating our resources, Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget. Sharon is Policy & Outreach Director for the Education Law Center – Rosi


A statewide program that elicits glowing reviews, saves taxpayers money and provides excellent results verified by serious analyses is rare indeed. But New Jersey’s high quality, full-day, preschool program for at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds meets all of these criteria and more. In fact, the state’s program is a national model, closely examined by the Obama Administration before the launch of the President’s Preschool for All Initiative.

High quality preschool is currently in place in New Jersey’s former Abbott districts and four additional districts. Seventeen more districts will receive a federal grant to provide the program to 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Abbott preschool was promised to all at-risk students around the state as part of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA). But program expansion under the SFRA has never occurred – instead, it’s been a casualty of the Great Recession and lingering state budget issues.

Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Investment in Preschool Would Mean Savings in the Future

Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetNoontime every Mon & Wed as the legislature considers NJ’s next budget, we present our 7-week series – with Anti-Poverty Network – of where NJ should be allocating our resources, Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget. Sharon is Policy & Outreach Director for the Education Law Center – Rosi


A statewide program that elicits glowing reviews, saves taxpayers money and provides excellent results verified by serious analyses is rare indeed. But New Jersey’s high quality, full-day, preschool program for at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds meets all of these criteria and more. In fact, the state’s program is a national model, closely examined by the Obama Administration before the launch of the President’s Preschool for All Initiative.

High quality preschool is currently in place in New Jersey’s former Abbott districts and four additional districts. Seventeen more districts will receive a federal grant to provide the program to 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Abbott preschool was promised to all at-risk students around the state as part of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA). But program expansion under the SFRA has never occurred – instead, it’s been a casualty of the Great Recession and lingering state budget issues.

Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Investment in Preschool Would Mean Savings in the Future

Sharon is Policy & Outreach Director for the Education Law Center

Anti-Poverty Network

A statewide program that elicits glowing reviews, saves taxpayers money and provides excellent results verified by serious analyses is rare indeed. But New Jersey’s high quality, full-day, preschool program for at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds meets all of these criteria and more. In fact, the state’s program is a national model, closely examined by the Obama Administration before the launch of the President’s Preschool for All Initiative.

High quality preschool is currently in place in New Jersey’s former Abbott districts and four additional districts. Seventeen more districts will receive a federal grant to provide the program to 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Abbott preschool was promised to all at-risk students around the state as part of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA). But program expansion under the SFRA has never occurred – instead, it’s been a casualty of the Great Recession and lingering state budget issues.

The irony is that by not investing in preschool expansion, or even providing full funding for the current preschool program, New Jersey is missing out on an important opportunity to provide poor children with the boost they need to succeed in school, a boost that will save the state money as these children continue through elementary school and beyond.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has studied New Jersey’s preschool program extensively. NIEER’s analyses show long-term gains directly attributable to the program, including increased achievement in language arts, math, and science. Test score gains from one year of preschool are roughly equivalent to 10-20% of the achievement gap between minority and white students, and the gains from two years are equivalent to 20-40% of the achievement gap. Preschool enrollment was also shown to reduce special education classifications by about 40% and grade retention by about 35%.

A decrease in special education classifications and grade retentions translates directly into savings for school districts and therefore taxpayers. An increase in achievement levels – now demonstrated through 5th grade – means less remediation and support needed by students who participated in preschool, and that also helps school budgets.

But there’s another reason why preschool has become more necessary than ever. The number of poor children living in New Jersey has increased significantly in recent years. In fact, 37% of all public school children in the state now qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The number of students eligible for preschool under the SFRA expansion has increased by almost 50% since 2009-10 (34,846 children in 2009-10, to 51,374 in 2014-15).

Preschool helps mitigate the impact of poverty on our youngest students. For example, studies have shown that poor children may arrive in kindergarten having learned many fewer words than their affluent peers. Preschool classrooms filled with age-appropriate books, a preschool curriculum based on numeracy and literacy often learned through play, and well-trained professionals committed to early education can help bridge the gap between rich and poor children.

We owe it to all New Jersey residents to help the state’s children succeed in school. Luckily we know exactly what works when it comes to starting off on the right foot. Put the money where it should be.

Fight Back Against the Assault on Public Education: Dec. 9 Day of Action

promoted by Rosi

National Day of ActionThe assault on public education isn’t confined to Newark or Montclair or Highland Park or Camden. Not confined to Chris Christie’s New Jersey. It’s a national phenomenon and countering it will take a national pushback. The beginning of that pushback just could be Dec. 9 when a national coalition of educational, parent, community and civic groups launch “A National Day to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.”

At a teleconference yesterday, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, outlined plans for a coordinated “day of action” in cities and towns throughout the country, most of them aimed at enlisting parents and community members in the fight against the corporate takeover of public education.

“We’re reclaiming the collaboration we have always had with parents in support of all public school students,” Weingarten said. She added the National Education Association also is a partner in the effort that she hopes will be followed up by sustained efforts to keep public education well-funded and out of private control.

New Jersey organizations in the coalition include the Newark Teachers Union (NTU), the Education Law Center, and New Jersey Communities United.

“I Am My Own Man”

“Don’t assume anything because I have a similar last name”.

That’s how Senator Donald Norcross opened his remarks to a group of about 30 Camden citizens at a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon, sponsored by the Friends of Lanning Square School Coalition and the Camden City Education Reform Committee.

Of course, without explicitly saying so, Norcross was referring to the positions held by his brother, South Jersey power broker and education privatization advocate, George Norcross III.

Saturday’s meeting brought together citizens and real reform advocates to discuss the seemingly elusive goal of improving Camden’s public schools at a time when the Governor and his administration seem more interested in lining the pockets of private school entrepreneurs and giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

Senator Norcross tried to put distance between his position and that of his more powerful brother in discussing the path forward. The Senator was promoting the recently signed Urban Hope Act as a way to get a new school built in the Lanning Square area of Camden.

Supreme Court Decision in School Funding Case

Update: In a press conference shortly after the ruling, Christie called the ruling “disappointing” but not “unexpected”, based on a failed legal and educational theory. Money doesn’t equal results. Says he will must comply with the constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Christie will leave it to the Legislature to find the money. Hat tip to both @GingerGibsonSL and @lisafleisher in the press conference.

As Deciminyan noted, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled today that the state must restore $500 million back to public education next year, far less than the $1.7 billion they might have ordered. And an out for a Governor who has both threatened simply to defy the Court if it ruled against him, and who has claimed New Jersey simply doesn’t have the money to fully fund the state’s schools under the funding formula approved by the court in 2009.

The majority opinion written by Associate Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said Christie’s deep cuts to NJ’s education spending have been “consequential and significant” and must be rolled back. That $500M is to be directed to the state’s poorest districts for the fiscal year beginning in July. Link to Supreme Court opinion.

It’s going to be much harder for Christie to defy the Court over $500 million, and less credible than it might have been to some voters if he claims New Jersey can’t reach that deep into its pockets: $500 million is not too far from the $400 million he intentionally botched in New Jersey’s failed efforts to get federal Race to the Top money. But Christie might defy the court anyway. Push comes to shove today, and he’s threatened to defy the Court over this several times. And defying the state’s Supreme Court is a curious position for that state’s chief executive, who as an attorney has sworn to uphold the law.

Christie is scheduled to talk to the press in just a few minutes. In a way, this decision allows Christie to further pit poor people in NJ’s cities against the wealthier suburbanites who make up his base. But how far is he willing to take that? How much deeper a wedge does he want to drive. If the Governor fights this $500 million into NJ’s cities, this could very well be Christie’s Let them eat cake moment.

Today’s decision arises from a lawsuit by the Newark-based Education Law Center, claiming that Gov. Christie’s slashes to state funding of its public schools were unconstitutional, violating the state’s constitutional requirement to provide “T & E,” the “thorough and efficient system of free public schools”. The Supreme Court ruled today, in essence, that Christie’s cuts did in fact leave the state unable to provide “T & E” education, but with the poorest districts left most vulnerable to those cuts, and the remedy directed to those districts.  

Trenton On My Mind

Assembly Holds Hearing Today on Charter Schools

The Education Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-18), will receive testimony on issues relating to charter schools, including current need, local approval requirements, accountability, and alternative avenues for authorization of new charter schools. The invited speakers include individuals from Education Law Center, Statewide Education Organizing Committee, Save Our Schools, NJ Charter Schools Association, Garden State Coalition of Schools and others.  

Monday, January 24, 2011 – 1:00 PM in Committee Room 11, 4th Floor, State House Annex or listen here.

Reducing Our High Level of Incarcerations

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will consider today A3053 (S2634) which establishes a conditional intervention program in municipal court for certain first-time offenders. This bill creates an alternative to sentencing those who are charged with a disorderly persons offense or a petty disorderly persons offense. It is patterned closely on the provisions which permits certain first-time drug offenders to have proceedings suspended or to have no judgment of conviction entered if they complete certain drug treatment or meet other conditions imposed by the court. Primary Sponsors: Reed Gusciora (D-15), Annette Quijano (D-20), Peter Barnes (D-18) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15)

Monday, January 24, 2011 – 10:00 AM in Committee Room 12, 4th Floor, State House Annex or listen here.

ARC Tunnel Deadline

The federal government recently gave NJ Transit a third and final extension on its deadline to respond to demands that a $271 million debt to the Federal Transit Administration be repaid for the cancelled ARC tunnel. The deadline is tomorrow. Will Governor Christie respond, “I will sues you,” or will he pay up and tell us what account is being debited?