New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie has proposed in the state budget, that was unveiled February 25th, a $5 million "grant style" program for some school districts to study the implementation of longer school hours. Christie first mentioned longer school days and shorter summers for New Jersey public schools last month during his State of the State address in hopes of helping students stay competitive.
As reported by Brent Johnson, the Governor's shared plan was met with mixed opinions last month as many educators shared their views on how longer schools will enhance students' learning but the change itself would be very costly to implement.
Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, said the pilot program Christie is proposing to fund is "a good approach."
"Research shows the more instruction children have, the more they learn," Belluscio said. "The obstacle has always been the financial aspect."
The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union that has infamously opposed Christie, released a statement about the Governor's proposed funding sharing support as well as cautious sentiment.
"NJEA is pleased to see the governor acknowledge that his plan to extend the school day and school year will be costly for districts," union president Wendell Steinhauer said in a statement. "We urge that if the Legislature approves the proposed innovation grant fund, it should be used only to fund genuine pilot programs, run by public school districts, that can be observed over at least three years â¦"
Many New Jersey schools can arguably benefit if these pilot programs are successful and every school system should be able to decide what to do with the extra time that'll be granted, state Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee shared.
"Every district in New Jersey has different needs." Ruiz said. "Perhaps it's arts and music, if the school is not infusing that in their program because of cuts. Perhaps it's math and science."
The superintendant of Mount Olive schools, Larrie Reynolds also shared with the public his support of longer school days, stating that longer school days would help and further art and technology education.
"It'd make school more futuristic, more fun, more engaging," he said.
With Christie's proposed budget, state schools will overall see a $36.8 million hike from the current fiscal year. The governor also proposed another $5 million for preschool initiatives, as well as increasing funding for the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program by $4.8 million and protecting $12 million in charter school funding. The budget proposal also included special funding to help districts implement online computer-based testing.
In addition, the plan features $2.3 billion in funding for higher education — an increase of $159 million from the current fiscal year. That includes a hike of $14 million for tuition assistance grants to help low-income students pay for college.
Christie — who cut $1 billion from schools in 2010, his first year in office — touted that the plan includes "a record" $9 billion in aid to schools.
"We will ensure that every one of our nearly 600 school districts receives an increase," the governor said.