Christie Pushes to Re-write New Jersey Education Funding Formula

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration is arguing in court that the state needs the ability to overrule teacher contracts, rather than receiving additional funding, in order to improve struggling school districts.

The governor is asking the Supreme Court to give the state the authority to override teacher contract rules in a total of 31 districts that administration has said "serve as impediments to a thorough and efficient education." The majority of these districts are urban and poor.

Christie would like to see an end to the "last in, first out" law currently in effect in the state that protects veteran teachers. He argued that the law is getting in the way of the improvement of urban schools, writes John Mooney for NJSpotlight.

Christie is also requesting a freeze to be placed on the current level of funding that districts receive in an effort to allow him extra time to create a new formula that would give each district an equal amount of funding rather than giving more money to poorer districts. Christie previously tried to cut funding to these schools in 2010, but that request was denied, reports Josh Cornfield for NBC10.

"We've tried it for 30 years. What we know now is, more money alone does not translate into a better education," Christie said in a statement. "It would be criminal to allow this situation to continue."

Christie would also like to see changes made not only to the school year, but to the school day as well.

The legal action would see the Abbott vs. Burke case be reopened. The school funding case placed additional dollars into 31 low-income districts throughout the state. Christie argues that 27 of those districts continue to underperform despite receiving an additional $100 billion in funding since 1985, writes Leslie Brody for The Wall Street Journal.

However, not everyone agrees with Christie's move. Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, called the filing a political ploy meant to take attention away from a trial involving two former allies of Christie in a case concerning a lane-closure of the George Washington Bridge.

"Know this: when Chris Christie says he is looking out for the interests of children, he is lying," Steinhauer said in a statement. "He's never looked out for anyone's interests but his own. He wants to consolidate all power in New Jersey with himself, cutting out the voices of local residents, professional educators, parents and others who know what it really takes to make public schools succeed."

Education advocates have also spoken out against the plan, calling it "unconstitutional" and "radical."

The governor has been touring the state recently in an effort to promote his "Fairness Formula," which he says will bring property tax relief to many districts across the state. The new formula would put an end to the state formula currently used as the result of a 1985 Supreme Court ruling requiring a "thorough and efficient" education for poor districts.

The new plan would redistribute funding to reach all of the close to 600 school districts throughout the state, giving each district $6,599 per pupil.

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