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JOHN MOONEY | MAY 16, 2017

After more than a year at the bargaining table, NTU walks away with contract that protects performance bonuses, includes raises

Newark schools superintendent Christopher Cerf

Four years ago, a landmark contract for Newark public school teachers warranted a public signing and a press conference, complete with Gov. Chris Christie and the national president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The deal was the first in the state with significant performance bonuses for teachers, mostly funded by private money, including the much-ballyhooed $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

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The NJ Board of Education’s choice of PARCC as a HS graduation requirement is an overreach by the executive branch that the Legislature must correct

Sarah Blaine

On March 16, the New Jersey Assembly overwhelmingly passed ACR-215, which is a resolution declaring that the state Board of Education’s new regulations requiring students to pass the PARCC Algebra 1 and the 10th grade PARCC English Language Arts tests to graduate from high school are “inconsistent with legislative intent.”

The existing law requires a comprehensive 11th grade test (which these two PARCC tests, neither of which is generally administered in 11th grade, are not). The resolution will not stop New Jersey’s schools from having to offer PARCC each year, but if adopted by the state Senate as well, it is a step toward ensuring that students will not have to pass PARCC to graduate from high school.

With this resolution, the Assembly took the first step in one process by which our New Jersey legislators can check the authority of our governor and his appointees (in this case, the state Board of Education): invalidating regulations that our Legislature determines are “inconsistent with legislative intent.” In English, that means that if the Legislature passes a law, and the executive branch decides to ignore the law and do something different, the Legislature can tell the executive branch: “No, you’re wrong, please go back to the drawing board.” Because this is a check on the executive branch’s authority, the governor’s signature is not required.

As at least 180,000 New Jersey students demonstrated by refusing to take PARCC tests in 2015 and 2016, opposition to PARCC testing is widespread. But leaving the substantive issues surrounding the PARCC test aside, important as they are, ACR-215 and its senate companion resolution, SCR-132, are about governance.  That is, in considering these resolutions, the key question our legislators must decide is whether they are willing to allow Gov. Chris Christie and the Christie-appointed Board of Education to openly ignore New Jersey law.

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The 20 N.J. school districts most dependent on state funding


By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for
on February 28, 2017 at 7:15 AM, updated February 28, 2017 at 7:53 AM

TRENTON — When Gov. Chris Christie delivers his 2018 budget address on Tuesday, New Jersey school officials will be listening especially closely.

How Christie will address education funding is the biggest question about his final budget, leaving administrators bracing for the possibility of funding cuts.

There’s some concern Christie could follow through with the “Fairness Formula,” a plan he unveiled last summer to give every district $6,599 per student regardless of income or other needs. Though many education groups are convinced Christie won’t do that, they still don’t have high hopes for increases in school funding.

“I’m not expecting any good news in the budget,” said Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

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Governor Christie The Fairness Formula will Lower Property Taxes and Force Education Reform

School Choice by ArtChick

file photo by ArtChick

August 25,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Earlier this summer, Governor Christie proposed a solution to New Jersey’s two most pressing issues; the failure of urban education and high property taxes.

In 1985 Abbott Districts were created as a result of the first ruling of Abbott v. Burke, a case filed by the Education Law Center. The ruling asserted that public primary and secondary education in poor communities throughout the state was unconstitutionally substandard.

The Abbott II ruling in 1990 had the most far-reaching effects, ordering the state to fund the (then) 28 Abbott districts at the average level of the state’s wealthiest districts.

The low-income districts began to receive the extra aid .The Abbott ruling led to the current school funding formula crisis allowing failing school districts to spend as much as $33,699 per pupil in tax dollars, while high‐performing school districts spend less than half of that per student.

In what could be one of the largest failures in social engineering ,leading to excessive spending by a select few and chronically failing school districts,who have received billions more in state taxpayer dollars over the past three decades than hundreds of successful school districts.

According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University,”While it is difficult to compare academic achievement across time periods, evidence indicates that Abbott money has had little effect on improving student performance. ”

Mercatus Center went on , “The lackluster performance of these schools is also related to the fractured relationship between beneficiaries and providers. Abbott districts receive the majority of their funding from state aid rather than local tax revenues. The incentive to make optimal use of this funding and to monitor school performance is minimal. In addition, taxpayers in districts receiving state aid may not be benefiting from lower property taxes, because officials in local government prefer to work the increased revenue into their budgets, rather than returning it to taxpayers via a municipal tax cut.”

That’s where Governor Christie steps in with his Fairness Formula. The Fairness Formula will provide equal education funding for every pupil throughout the state, valuing every child equally. Under the Fairness Formula, all public school districts would receive $6,599 for every enrolled student, plus continued funding for special education. This will give every child an equal chance at success.

With this new formula, 75% of all New Jersey districts would get more state aid than they do today. The biggest driver of New Jersey’s nation‐high property taxes is the ineffective and unfair state school funding formula. The Fairness Formula will not only be equal for students it may also provide hundreds or even thousands of dollars in annual property tax savings for New Jerseyans in most communities.   The potential property tax savings that would be realized under the Fairness Formula is a strong benefit to New Jersey’s economy as a whole. Business owners are burdened by New Jersey’s highest in the nation property taxes and chased to more affordable states due to New Jersey’s many other non‐competitive taxes that have been enacted by Democrats.

A byproduct of the Fairness Formula is a renewed interest in alternative options for educational choice.

Recently Atlantic City passed a resolution unanimously by the Democrat-dominated body for a non-binding referendum in time for the November ballot : REGARDING SCHOOL VOUCHERS AND TAX CREDITS.

WHEREAS, The City Council of Atlantic City is empowered with the authority to submit nonbinding referendum questions to the public in order to ascertain the sentiment of legal voters; and NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Atlantic City hereby submits the following questions to be printed upon the official ballots to be used at the next ensuing General Election as follows: “Shall the State of New Jersey designate the City to begin offering vouchers to families with children ages 6-16 so they can select the school they want their children to attend?” “Shall the State of New Jersey designate the City of Atlantic City to begin offering property tax credits to families with children ages 6-16 who choose to homeschool?

The revolutionary resolution was created by freshman GOP Councilman Jesse Kurtz, who is himself an NJEA member, New Jersey’s largest teachers union.

According to Matthew Chingos of the Urban Institute ,”School choice policies aim to break the link between where children live and where they go to school. They seek to interrupt the cycle of poverty by providing low-income children with access to high-quality educational options that will boost their chances of long-term success. Choice programs come in several flavors, including charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated; private school vouchers, which cover all or part of private school tuition; and open enrollment plans (sometimes called public school vouchers) that allow parents to send their child to any public school in the district. When done right, school choice programs can be powerful tools in the fight against poverty.”

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The Fairness Formula is the Future of Education Funding

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi

By Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi

Many people in New Jersey do not understand the archaic formulas which drive state funding for our schools and the vastly different property tax results in our respective municipalities. Under the New Jersey Constitution, it is mandated that students be provided a thorough and efficient education. That phrase has been thrown around conveniently in defense of an inequitable formula that is too expensive to fund with results that scream failure. New Jersey needs a fair funding formula that fixes the problem, and Bergen taxpayers need real property tax relief.

A few weeks ago, Governor Christie proposed a formula that would provide equal funding on a per student basis. This new formula, called the fairness formula, is nearly identical to what I have introduced since 2012. The majority in the legislature wants to continue with a failed system, which has disproportionately and negatively impacted 69 out of 70 communities in Bergen County. What the Governor and I have proposed will fix the problem.

Under the proposed fairness formula, state aid would be $6,599 per pupil with additional funding provided for students with special needs. No student will be regarded as worth more than another. The state has thrown billions of dollars at underperforming districts for years and the situation hasn’t improved. The time is now that we face reality and provide fair funding for every student in the state and stop strangling taxpayers to fund failure.

One of those former Abbott districts is Passaic City. With only around 10,000 public students, it receives more money than all 70 municipalities combined in Bergen, which has approximately 250,000 students. Further, overfunded municipalities often use that money to pay for things other than students, such as Elizabeth which in 2015 spent more per student on legal and consulting fees ($237 per pupil) than on textbooks and supplies.

In comparison, Pascack Valley Regional High School District is rated the eighth best school district in New Jersey with a graduation rate of 98 percent, while receiving only $550 per student (a number only slightly higher than what Elizabeth spent on legal and consulting fees). The average property tax in Bergen County is well over $11,000. As a result of these increasingly high property taxes, Bergen County has found itself in recent years with one of the highest rates of foreclosures, pre-foreclosures and personal bankruptcies. On the flip side, Camden High School has only a 46 percent graduation rate and yet receives over $30,000 per student. The average property tax in Camden County is only slightly over $6,000. Other than a handful of exceptions, towns in Bergen and Passaic counties have carried the brunt of increasing property taxes, yet they have received the least amount of funding in the entire state.

This lopsided school funding formula is indefensible. Bergen and Passaic homeowners are paying sky high property taxes to fund a school district on the opposite side of the state that can’t graduate half of its students. What makes the students in Camden worth sixty-times more than a student who goes to Pascack Valley or any other school district in Bergen or Passaic? What makes 10,000 school age children in Passaic more valuable than every school district in Bergen County combined? The answer: court mandates on how the state should spend its money.

The state Supreme Court ruled in the Abbott v. Burke decisions that most money should be distributed to districts that have demonstrated an inability to provide educational excellence. The consequence has been diverting money from districts that pay through the nose for education to districts that don’t; such as Bergen paying for Camden. Diverting these funds has resulted in higher property taxes for districts that want to maintain the educational excellence they have achieved. In some cases the towns with diverted funds have large retiree populations, robbing senior citizens of their savings and the value of their homes.

The Corzine school funding formula the court approved has resulted in failure. The court ruled that nearly sixty percent of school funding provided to only 5 percent of school districts satisfies a constitutionally thorough and efficient education. This unfair formula has increased property taxes across the state and has failed to effectively educate the students in districts that cost the most taxpayer dollars. All the while, student enrollment in the former Abbott districts has decreased as funding has increased.

When schools are funded on a per pupil basis, taxpayers benefit. School funding will increase nearly 500 percent in Bergen and Passaic with the fairness formula, while average property taxes will be reduced by over $2,000. When schools aren’t funded on a per pupil basis, $5.1 billion goes to 31 districts and $4 billion goes to 546 districts. The fairness formula will equitably spend $9.1 billion across all 577 districts, without any property tax discrimination based on educational excellence. Any legislator representing these counties who does not support this fair and balanced approach is failing to represent their own constituents.

Providing funding equally on a per pupil basis will level out the playing field and decrease property taxes across the state. Extra aid will only be provided to make sure we take care of our special education students who need the extra help to get by. Three out of four school districts in the entire state would see an increase in aid, 69 out of 70 municipalities in Bergen County would see an increase in aid. That means 69 Bergen County towns will see a reduction in property taxes, providing much needed relief.

The current school funding formula has been a disaster that drives up property taxes and does nothing to help failing school districts reverse the course. The fairness formula will provide fair funding. Opponents to the idea will holler that it is unconstitutional. If that is their only concern, I have sponsored a resolution since 2012 (ACR35) amending the constitution to provide a thorough and efficient education on a per pupil basis. The current formula is an indefensible failure, if the constitution is the only concern, then pass my resolution and the fairness formula.

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PARCC test opponents launch billboards in Bergen County


APRIL 2, 2015, 6:54 PM    LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2015, 6:54 PM

The controversy over new state tests has reached Bergen County’s congested roadways, with new billboard ads on Routes 17 and 80.

The ads, which both appeared in Rochelle Park this week, feature the image of a child holding her hand out in a stop gesture. The sign says “Refuse PARCC tests. Bad for kids, bad for education.”

The state tests, known as PARCC, were required for the first time this year for grades 3 to 11 in math and English language arts. The tests measure students knowledge of academic standards and yield data that can be compared to other schools and state.

They are named for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the group of states that developed them.

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Tweets, FaceBook, Instagram and other social media being tracked! Not only by the NSA, but by Pearson Education and the NJ Department of Education!!


Tweets, FaceBook, Instagram and other social media being tracked! Not only by the NSA, but by Pearson Education and the NJ Department of Education!!


We recently wrote about this story that appeared last week concerning the PARCC tests. This is a follow up with more troubling news.

Bob Braun, former Star Ledger education reporter, reported about the surveillance of students’ social media following their taking of the PARCC test at Watchung Regional HS, and the superintendent’s reaction. Pearson asked, through the NJ Department of Education, that the students be disciplined, on account of their tweets concerning the test. The NJDOE contacted the school district and forwarded Pearson’s request to the district. One student was suspended as a result, but the superintendent’s e-mail to her colleagues has also been posted, expressing concern about the compromise of student privacy.

This story has now exploded across NJ and the nation, as other reports of Pearson snooping into student social media accounts have surfaced. Now, in addition to the Watchung Regional School District. Two high schools in the HANOVER PARK REGIONAL HS District (three blocks from my house), and COLUMBIA HIGH SCHOOL in Maplewood HAVE REPORTED SIMILAR CASES OF PEARSON’S SNOOPING.

Worse – Pearson has confirmed their interests in maintaining test security through monitoring of student social media, and a call this morning to the NJ Department of Education defended the practice as not violating student privacy, because it was obtained not through the school district, but through information posted “publicly” on social media, by the students themselves.
PLEASE, PLEASE – read Bob Braun’s entire blog, for which the link appears above. He indicates that his story has NOT been covered by the Star Ledger, for which he used to work!!!

As a result of this news, NJ Commissioner of Education, David Hespe, and Pearson have been called before the NJ Assembly Education Committeethis Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in Trenton to answer questions.



Here is an excerpt from Braun’s FaceBook blog:

Bob Braun’s Ledger

March 15, 2015
The Brave New World of testing expands

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BLOG: HANOVER – Two other New Jersey school districts-Hanover Park Regional in East Hanover and South Orange-Maplewood-were notified by state officials that “monitoring”-spying?- Twitter traffic revealed students had used social media accounts to post a forbidden messages regarding the PARCC tests. No surprise, really-it’s happening everywhere, including Maryland where a state official said he gets daily reports from Pearson, the publisher of the standardized tests. on what students are saying about testing on their internet accounts.

“PARCC has a very sophisticated system that closely monitors social media for pretty much everything (comments like the one you shared, test item questions that students use cell phones cameras and take),” said Henry Johnson, the state assistant education commissioner in Maryland. The state, like New Jersey, has a contract with Pearson.

“We get those reports daily.”

Let’s run that one by you again:

“PARCC has a very sophisticated system that closely monitors social media for pretty much everything….”

The phrase “pretty much everything” aptly describes the broad reach of how this brave new world of testing and cooperation with government works. Pearson will say-as it told the Washington Post-that it is doing it for “security” reasons.

But security is itself a broad term. Here is what the State of New Jersey and Pearson agreed encompassed the idea of security and its possible breach-it’s codified in the testing manual developed by the state and sent out to all the districts:

“Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication.”

Another opportunity for repetition for emphasis here-discussing? Any other form of communication?

So, if children come home from school and their parents ask-“How was your day, sweetheart?” and the children talk about a really dumb question on the PARCC, they will be violating the rules and be subject to whatever punishment is meted out for cheating-as a blogger did who learned from a child who hadn’t taken the test that there was a passage on it about The Wizard of Oz.

In addition, research into Pearson has shown that by students logging on to take the test, their district-held “personal” information is forwarded on to Pearson, then to Amazon Cloud servers – where the only remaining protection is a “promise” that whatever companies it is then shared with will have and honor a privacy policy. Pretty risky, given the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to promote Common Core.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Read the entire Braun blog, and FORWARD THIS ON TO EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST!!!! To do this, please use the “forward” buttons at the top and bottom of this e-mail, rather than using your own server to forward, as you may unwittingly “unsubscribe” yourself from our e-mails if someone you sent it to “unsubscribes”.
2. Let’s show up in Trenton on Thursday. Three other bills are on the agenda, in addition to Hespe and Pearson being called to testify. I am told that testimony must be on the bills, not on the privacy issue alone. Therefore, I would suggest that you address your remarks to A4268, that establishes a PARCC task force (deja vu all over again!). Click here for a link to the text of the bill. You will see it looks a whole lot like the bill proposed last spring and ultimately voted on and passed, almost unanimously by the Assembly. This is like tying your child to the train track as the train approaches, but telling him to relax, you’re going to study how fast it is coming, how far it will go, how many people are on board, whether you CAN stop it, etc.!!!
3. Call and/or e-mail all of the contacts for Senate and Assembly Ed committees, and the Governor’s office.
4. Call and/or e-mail your own 2 assembly representatives and your state senator.

Barbara Eames


Patrick J. Diegnan, Chair (D-18) – 908-757-1677 —
Troy Singleton, Vice Chair (D-7) – 856-234-2790 –
Ralph R. Caputo (D-28) 973-450-0484 —
Angel Fuentes (D-5) 856-547-4800 —
Mila M. Jasey (D-27) 973-762-1886 —
Angelica Jimenez (D-32) 201-223-4247 —
David P. Rible (R-30) 732-974-1719 —
Donna M. Simon (R-16) 908-968-3304 —
Adam Taliaferro (D-3) 973-339-0808 —
David W. Wolfe (R-10) 732-840-9028 —


Democratic majority = Martin Sumners (609) 847-3500

Republican minority = Natalie Ghaul (609) 847-3400


Teresa M. Ruiz, Chair (D-29) …… 973-484-1000 —
Shirley K. Turner, Vice Chair (D-15) 609-323-7239 —
Diane Bl Allen (R-7).. 856-314-8835 —
James Beach (D-6) …. 856-429-1572 —
Michael Doherty (R-23) 908-835-0552 —


Democratic majority = Liz Mahn ……….. (609) 847-3700

Republican minority = Christopher Emigholz (609) 847-3600


Chris Christie … 609-292-6000 or (609) 777-2500
— web contact form =

(scroll down to select topic = Education, Subtopic = K-12)

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Concerns Grow About Common Core Standards



Gregory Dymshits, a full-time research biologist, teaches a genetics lesson at a special school for advanced science and math students. (Photo: Jim Ketsdever/KRT/Newscom)

Concerns Grow About Common Core Standards
Brittany Corona/ March 12, 2015

“If you came to college with only an Algebra II background and you wanted to major in a STEM area, you have a 1/50 chance— a 2 percent chance— of ever obtaining a degree in STEM… This level of preparation is simply insufficient,” said Milgram.

According to Education Week, teachers also are struggling with how to teach to the Common Core math standards.

“Each standard has so many ideas built into it, you really have to sit down and think through all the implications of that,” said math teacher Bobson Wong. “I could easily make each of these courses a two-year course.”

And recently, reports surfaced that the Common Core architects left what some consider holes in the standards.

Richard A. Askey, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former member of the math standards’ feedback group, later noticed an omission of a geometry standard in Common Core. In fact, according to Education Week, Askey said “the process toward the end was so hurried that an entire high school standard was left out of the final draft.”

“There’s no formal mechanism in place for a wholesale review of the common core, but it’s likely that states will—as they always have—review their standards at times and decide whether they need to be altered,” the Education Week article said.

When Common Core was created in 2009 by Achieve Inc., with oversight from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, its adoption immediately was tied to federal incentives through billions in competitive grants and waivers from provisions in the No Child Left Behind law.

By 2010, 46 states had signed on to the standards and agreed to implement them fully by this school year. Over the last two years, states have begun to realize the costs of quickly signing on to Common Core. By 2015, 15 of the original 46 states that agreed to Common Core have made efforts to withdraw from the standards and aligned tests. Four exited the standards completely—Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana.

The haste of Common Core’s adoption is felt across the nation—but the extent is not yet realized. The alignment of college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, and advanced placement courses cause concern over the “voluntary” nature of the standards.

Yet, there is still hope. Many states are putting forth measures to reclaim autonomy over their standards and are beginning to practice competitive federalism, thoughtfully considering their state standards, Common Core and other state standards to make a set of standards and tests that are best for their students’ college or career readiness.


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Democrats in Trenton look to remove superintendent salary caps



Democrats in Trenton look to remove superintendent salary caps

FEBRUARY 8, 2015, 11:32 PM    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2015, 11:35 PM

Saddle River is on the hunt for its third superintendent in three years.

Alpine wants permission to keep its interim leader beyond the two-year state limit.

And Ho-Ho-Kus is hoping its high-achieving, parent-involved district appears attractive to superintendent candidates — even though it can offer them only $135,000.

Leaders in some small, wealthy North Jersey school districts say the superintendent pay cap — instituted by Governor Christie in 2011 — has dealt them a particularly hard blow. Once seen as appealing places to work, these districts now are having trouble drawing and retaining top candidates because they’re competing with larger districts that are allowed to pay more and New York State, which has no salary limits. What’s more, they are willing to pay top dollar, but can’t.

On top of it, many of these chief executives often work double duty as principals, so offering them less than what they could earn in subordinate roles elsewhere isn’t always an easy sell.

Christie targeted superintendent salaries five years ago with his Reform Agenda to help school districts keep costs low and better finance priority services.

Superintendent salaries had risen, on average, 46 percent or $100 million between 2001 and 2010, according to the governor’s office.

The cap resulted in the reduction of salaries for about 360 school superintendents, or 70 percent, for a potential savings of nearly $9.8 million statewide, $2.2 million in Bergen County and $650,000 in Passaic County, according to the state data.

When the cap was imposed, Christie’s move was panned by educators and praised by fiscal conservatives, who complained about the state’s high property taxes — and even higher per-pupil costs for suburban districts.

Today, the New Jersey Senate Budget Committee will vote on a bill sponsored by Sens. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, and M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Newark, that would roll back the caps, prohibiting the state Department of Education from regulating the maximum salary a school district can pay its superintendent. The bill was already considered by the education committee, Sarlo said.

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N.J. limits its school choice program



Education Commissioner David Hespe

N.J. limits its school choice program

FEBRUARY 1, 2015, 10:45 PM    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2015, 10:46 PM

In an effort to cut down on rising costs, the state is capping a program that allows students to attend schools outside their own district at no extra cost, limiting some Bergen and Passaic schools to just a handful of open spots for the coming school year.

“It’s fiscally unsustainable,” state Education Commissioner David Hespe said in an interview. “The program has increased fivefold. The cost has increased fivefold.”

The education commissioner is also considering preventing additional students from high-performing schools, which would include many in Bergen County, from participating. The program was meant to give students access to better schools, but many of the students who took advantage already had good schools in their hometown, Hespe said.

State officials say they need to stop the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program’s growth because it has ballooned to about 5,000 students at a cost of $50 million a year. But supporters of the program say the decision to cap it seems to contradict the Christie administration’s stated policy of creating more taxpayer-financed options for students who don’t want to attend struggling local schools.