Christie Signs Bills to Improve New Jersey Vocational Education

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New Jersey governor Chris Christie has signed five bills into law that expand vocational education in the state.

Two other vocational education measures were vetoed by the governor because of the high price of adding them to the curriculum. Matt Friedman, writing for New Jersey Advance Media, says the bills were pet projects of state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), a code inspector, who once worked as a plumber.

“This is a key step toward a more sensible and stronger vocational educational system in New Jersey,” Prieto said in a statement. “We had to make clear that there are many well-paying careers that can be launched with an industry credential or an associate’s degree.”

The bills include several changes: a New Jersey report card that would include “indicators of student career readiness”; requiring colleges and universities to incorporate programming for student readiness in how they teach prospective teachers and student counselors; establishing a grant program for county vocational schools to partner with local schools and county colleges ” to create high-quality career and technical education programs in existing facilities”;  requiring public colleges to set up partnerships with high schools so students can take college-level vocational courses; exempting class settings in off-site industrial areas from some state regulations.

The bills which were vetoed due to cost concerns were included a bill that would have given additional state school aid to county vocational schools that saw enrollment increase by more than 10%, and one that would have provided state aid to adult education programs.

“While I support the advancement of vocational education in these ways, I cannot sign (the bills) because each would impose a significant financial burden upon the state and, as such, should only be considered as part of the annual budget process,” Christie wrote in his veto message.

Prieto said he would work to find the funding needed to allow the vetoed bills to be passed, a priority in the establishment of the budget for next year.

The governor’s reforms for 2014 did hit some snags as they ran into the “political realities” that forced the governor to reconsider some of his key initiatives, reports John Mooney of the New Jersey Spotlight. High on the list is the new teacher evaluation system, particularly how student test results are used to measure teacher performance. Another was that Christie’s model was to be Newark, yet he gave  lukewarm support to battle-worn Newark superintendent, Cami Anderson. Still, it is not time to count the governor out. If he runs for president, as many believe he will, these snags will not be interpreted as significant failures.

Christie’s new education commissioner, David Hespe, has been well-received and is considered to be a calming influence as compared to former Commissioner Chris Cerf’s performance.

On the other hand, the governor proved he was listening to Common Core and PARCC exam naysayers when he signed an executive order to form a task force to review the state’s history and future in the realm of testing. He has settled a long-running lawsuit against the state concerning segregation of special-education students.