Christie doing plenty
Michael Gardella | Monday, November 14, 2011
Contrary to yesterday’s Letter to the Editor “Christie isn’t helping,” (Nov. 14) the governor is targeting his educational reforms at the waste, inefficiency and failures within New Jersey’s public education system.
Although the suburban districts are mostly very good, 31 urban districts that represent about 20 percent of N.J.’s school children receive about 60 percent of the state’s education funds despite continued poor performance. For over 20 years, the activist N.J. Supreme Court has mandated levels of state funding for these districts through the endless Abbott v. Burke litigation. The court has assumed unchecked authority in violating separation of powers by hijacking the appropriations power, explicitly given to the legislature in the state constitution.
The court has legislated from the bench and created an entitlement for virtually limitless amounts of state taxpayer funds for these 31 “Abbott” districts. They have no incentives to reform themselves and spend about $3000 more per-pupil than the statewide average. They have subpar graduation rates and many of their graduates are unprepared for college. The governor has made it a top priority to reverse the judicially enforced philosophy that more money solves the urban education problem.
Both of Christie’s budgets have increased the state’s contribution to education. His first budget resulted in a net reduction of funds because $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funds expired. That year, the state actually increased its amount of funding for education by $70 million despite the state’s fiscal crisis. The $820 million statewide reduction was greater for the Abbott districts simply because they get most of the state’s funds. The state funds more than 70 percent of the school budget for 25 of the 31 Abbott districts.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, has spent millions of dollars attacking the governor while not putting forth constructive substantive solutions of its own. A county teacher’s union president even sent out a memo calling for the governor’s death in 2010. Out of self-interest, the NJEA opposes the governor’s proposals to expand school choice, provide financial incentives for improvement and impose consequences on administrators and teachers for failure.