Gov. Christie Says He is not Frustrated With Slow-moving Education Reform Proposals

March 13, 2012

 BORDENTOWN — Gov. Chris Christie Monday said he is not frustrated with the slow pace of change on most of the education reforms he proposed two years ago. Not yet, anyway.

The Republican governor said he believes Democrats who control the Legislature — Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver (D-Essex) — have agreed to try to advance bills that would change the rules for tenure, compensation, vouchers and charter schools.

Christie said the budget, pension and benefit reform and running for re-election kept lawmakers too busy to address his education reforms last year and in the first month of this year, same-sex marriage dominated the discourse.

"Willing to address doesn’t mean pass and get on my desk. I understand the lingo," he said at a press conference in Bordentown. "When Steve or Shelia doesn’t want to address something, like ethics reform, they tell me it’s not going to happen. That’s not what they’ve said about education reform."

Oliver pushed back on Christie’s attempt to grab the reigns on the issue.

"The Assembly will advance its own education agenda as it sees fit, as it has for instance with the bill to require voter approval for charter schools," she said in a statement.

Gov. Christie and Cerf outline their plan for education reformGov. Christie and Cerf outline their plan for education reformNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf talk about their plan for education reform during a press conference at Bordentown Regional High School. (Video by Tony Kurdzuk / The Star-Ledger)Watch video

Chris Donnelly, a spokesman for Sweeney, said "education is certainly important" but the Senate President’s priority is "providing real property tax relief."

Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf went to Bordentown Regional High School to once again pitch the administration’s proposals.

Last year the Legislature passed his Urban Hope Act, which gives private nonprofit groups the authority to build a total of 12 schools in Newark, Camden and Trenton. Still on deck, however, is the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which would provide students with vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.

Christie said his plan for teacher evaluation is based 65 percent of subjective measures like observation and 35 percent on testing and other objective criteria.

"Will we use it to remove ineffective teachers?" he said. "Sure we will. But I suspect what you’re going to find much more than removal is you’re going to see improvement of teachers."

Christie said he is not swayed by recent reports that nine schools were flagged for further investigation by the state Office of Fiscal Accountability, for possible cheating on state tests.

"I am not going to set up standards that play to the lowest common denominator just because some people might cheat to get there," he said. "It’s our job to figure out the ones who are cheating and to hold them accountable for that."