Factor 1 – Pension Deficits and Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Recent events surrounding state finances have been the source of great controversy. Let’s start with the failed attempt to place a ballot question that would amend the state constitution to require the state to pay toward pensions four times per year, rather than annually. Starting in the 2018 fiscal year, the state would have had to contribute $2.4 billion, then that amount would have been raised to $5.5 billion by 2020. In August, Senate President Steve Sweeney declined to place the question for a needed vote in the Senate stating, "Until we have resolved the Transportation Trust Fund impasse, we can't in good conscience put a constitutional guaranteed pension payment on the ballot."
Factor 2 – Transportation Trust Fund Legislation: A Mix of Increased Gas Tax and Other Tax Cuts
In a move where the timing surprised many, Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced on September 30 a bipartisan agreement for broad-based tax cuts and funding for the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). A number of legislators broke ranks with their respective parties to oppose the legislation, but their opposition did not overcome the vote of supporters.
The plan was ratified by the Legislature and provides for:
While, at first glance, the revenue raised will address New Jersey’s transit infrastructure for the next eight years, the deal received a rating of “credit negative” from Moody’s Investment Service. Moody’s noted that the Office of Legislative Services puts the tax cuts in the bill at $1 billion by Fiscal Year 2019 and $1.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2020. The Moody’s report reported that among the state’s biggest budget challenges is the rapid growth of costs associated with the state’s pension and benefit system, which is currently underfunded by some $40 billion. Based on the state’s projections, pension contributions will increase annually by an average of $711 million through Fiscal Year 2023, approximately 1.9 percent of revenues, Moody’s said. The report estimates that “the state’s revenues will have to increase approximately 4 percent annually to balance pension and other spending growth. Assuming the state takes no other actions to balance the net loss of $1 billion, revenues would have to grow 5 percent annually to balance pension and other spending growth. This growth target will be particularly challenging given the state’s below-average revenue growth of 3 percent annually since the recession.”
Factor 3 – Revocation of Pennsylvania/New Jersey Reciprocal Income Tax Agreement
Last month, Governor Christie ended, effective January 1, the Pennsylvania/New Jersey Reciprocal Income Tax Agreement that has been in place for nearly 40 years. As a result, those who work in South Jersey and commute from Pennsylvania, or work in Pennsylvania and commute from New Jersey, will pay higher wage taxes in 2017.
South Jersey employers including Subaru, Campbell Soup Co., and Destination Maternity are outraged. New Jersey-based companies with employees who live in Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania suburbs will be at a huge disadvantage, according to Kathy Davis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of South Jersey.
Nearly 250,000 workers in both states will file income-tax returns in both states. About 125,000 Pennsylvania residents commute to New Jersey, and 125,000 make the reverse trip, according to Census Bureau estimates.
Critics of the Governor’s planned action note that this will dampen business prospects for the state, further affecting revenues negatively in the long run.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Back to Willie Sutton — Education accounted for 31.3 percent of state expenditures in fiscal year 2015. So where might the current and future governors go when faced with budget shortfalls? The memory of Governor Christie in 2010 ordering the freeze of $475 million in school aid payments and requiring districts instead to use excess surplus funds still lingers. Christie said the Executive Orderwas necessary to help plug a budget deficit. So, just like Willie Sutton, he went to where the greatest pool of money is in the state budget – state aid for education. What George Santayana wrote (in The Life of Reason, 1905) should ring true as the Governor and legislators wrestle with the next budget: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Oh, and by the way, have you heard the Governor speak about the "Fairness Formula," which would provide $6,599 per student for each district, a proposal he said would significantly reduce aid to urban districts while lowering property taxes in many suburban towns? The Governor promised to “make mischief” during his last year in office when he spoke about the funding proposal.
NJASA's Vision 2020 plan acknowledges the need for predictable and sufficient funding to ensure world-class performance. Let’s hope that the factors noted here and the Governor's mischief don’t wreak havoc in school funding and result in less opportunity for New Jersey Public School students during the years ahead.
When I fly, I always look forward to the pilot’s announcement, “Please return to your seats and secure your seat belts as we begin to descend.” What I do not enjoy hearing is, “The control tower informs us that we are in a holding position and unable to land.” Unfortunately on my most recent flight, the plane’s landing was delayed because of a holding situation.
I know you are wondering what a plane’s holding position has to do with my Executive View article. Well it’s pretty simple.
This whole concept of a plane’s holding position is exactly the same as the holding position the State of New Jersey is experiencing.
Let’s look at the major issues on hold in New Jersey.
The Fiscal 2016-2017 budget signed into law provided minimal additional funding for public school systems. The School Funding Reform Act provisions were underfunded by more than $1 Billion.
School district financial support required by the School Funding Reform Act passed in 2008 has never been fully provided and has been woefully underfunded in the ensuing years’ state budgets since its enactment.
Instead of listening to the "Battle of the Bands" at the local high school, we are experiencing the battle of school funding plans between the Governor and the Senate President. NJASA supports the analysis of the impact of state funding for school systems and their communities with expectations that a more equitable system can be devised and that full financial support required by the school funding law can ultimately be achieved for New Jersey communities and their students.
The Transportation Trust Fund, established to finance the cost of “planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstruction, repair, resurfacing, and rehabilitation of the State’s transportation system” is on hold with no closure in sight.
This lack of action is causing several ripple effects from restrictions on the state budget, to no movement for advancing payments to the pension system, and to the redesign of health care costs.
Public pension funds are in a precarious state due to underfunding by many Governors over the decades. It has been easy for both political parties to continually kick the pension payment down the road. However, our elected leaders simply cannot apply the same approach to health benefits.
We have all witnessed New Jersey’s lagging economy, the disappearance of surplus monies from districts, the continual reliance on having parents/guardians pay more for extra services within the districts, and the growth of education foundations.
Student Performance Standards/Assessments/High School Graduation Requirements
For the good of the cause, we can all agree that assessment is an integral component of the teaching and learning process. It takes many forms beginning with astute teachers monitoring the daily performance of their students in class and raising to “high stakes” assessment by the states. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and states and districts await implementing regulations from the federal Department of Education. While well-intended, NCLB’s "one-size-fits-all" approach was unrealistic at best and punitive at worst. It took years of significant work in the educational community and within Congress, but in the last weeks of 2015, President Obama signed into law ESSA and shifted greater authority back to the states for determining accountability for student performance and teacher effectiveness.
NJASA endorses high standards and assessments that measure how students are achieving them and supports the effort to use 21st Century learning techniques in assessing student understanding. We, as education practitioners, advocate that every New Jersey student is truly ready for a career or post-secondary education following graduation.
The New Jersey State Board of Education has authorized the requirement that high school students demonstrate proficiency on PARCC assessments in Algebra I and 10th grade English language arts beginning with the class of 2021. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) provides valuable data that has been unavailable through prior state student assessment programs and student score reports are now more informative for both parents and educators. Much discussion and debate lies ahead to determine if these are the most appropriate requirements or if the state will take a different path in determining what “college and career” ready truly means for New Jersey students. We look forward to the conversation about defining graduation requirements that are more meaningful to students as they determine their personal paths forward after high school.
The next 15 months will prove to be pivotal times for all New Jersey residents. There is no crystal ball to predict what policy is coming next from our elected officials and how their decisions will affect New Jersey public education and local school districts. The tenets and goals of the NJASA Vision 2020 plan will guide our discussion and the efforts of our organization and members as we carefully examine proposals to shape public education for New Jersey students.
Collectively, all these issues have the potential to enhance, change, and/or erode the course and funding of education in New Jersey. Again, we are on hold with no closure in sight until maybe January 2018.
There is one thing that is not on hold - school bells. They are ringing again!
Together, NJASA, school leaders, parents and involved stakeholders will continue to move forward in spite of these challenges and others - always with the goal of having the best interest of our students.
It’s generally accepted that students have the right to free speech. But when a student shows up at your school wearing a t-shirt that could be potentially offensive, or one that carries a sexual double entendre, just what does a school administrator do? You can check The Legal Handbook for New Jersey School Administrators Seventh Edition to find out.
This informative resource is a practical field manual for school administrators who sometimes need to think like attorneys and have the context for what certain decisions will mean. I’ve used it time and again to check legal protocol that helps me make informed decisions that protect everyone’s rights.
School law is dynamic and complex. That’s why our three NJASA attorneys have compiled decades of experience to create this guide, which gives us the topline information on the most common legal topics affecting New Jersey schools. They’ve organized it in an easy-to-read PDF that I can view it on my desktop or tablet, on or off campus.
If I were to independently research this information, it would be time prohibitive. If I were to call my school attorney blindly, it could become cost prohibitive. The Legal Handbook provides me with the first steps to take action, or prepares me to make the first call to an education attorney, when needed.
Here are some situations that I think you will recognize for which the handbook can help you prepare for “what to expect”:
In addition to the handbook, the authors monitor current case law and members’ legal questions to create NJASA’s monthly legal publication supplements with timely information on pivotal cases affecting New Jersey public schools.
If you’re a school administrator, principal, human resource director or graduate student in education, you’ll find The Legal Handbook for New Jersey School Administrators Seventh Edition and legal publication series your first line of defense. For a limited time with your NJASA membership renewal/enrollment, you may purchase the Legal Handbook at a 20% discounted price of $79 (regular price $99). Nonmembers may email Ann Cahill, Manager of the Legal Department, or call her at 609-599-2900 x 118 to purchase a copy.
Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs.
There may be such a thing as a born leader. But fortunately for the rest of us, leadership is a learned skill. It’s a combination of on-the-job training, inspiring mentor relationships, and learning opportunities. One of the best is the 34th annual NJASA/NJAPSA Spring Leadership Conference, which brings together New Jersey’s most progressive chief education officers, national speakers and workshop presenters to Caesars Atlantic City, May 11-13, 2016. Here’s what school leaders should know about this conference, and why you should plan to attend.
Learn Best Practices from 33 Districts
This year’s theme, “Maximizing Leadership Effectiveness with One Vision—One Voice,” underscores Vision 2020, our plan to ensure that New Jersey’s public schools consistently rank among the best public education systems in the country. Working toward best practices in the year 2020 in New Jersey’s public schools, we’re excited to hear from 33 school districts representing the entire state from Teaneck to Ocean City, and everywhere in between.
Topics range from technology to school law to teacher supervision to data-driven success. Here are just some examples of the sessions that will be offered.
For the full list, click here.
Be Inspired by Educational Pioneers
In addition to the sessions, we’ll hear from three inspiring keynote speakers:
Ari Ne’eman is the president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an advocacy organization run by and for autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of autistic people across society. He was just 18 when he co-founded the organization, and just 22 when he was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on Disability, a federal agency charged with advising Congress and the President on disability policy issues. As a student in New Jersey’s schools, Ne’eman struggled with how special needs students were rarely challenged and is working to pave the way for increased opportunities for people with disabilities.
Dr. Pedro Noguera is the Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. He is a sociologist whose research focuses on ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions. A regular commentator on CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Dr. Noguera brings a wealth of experience as a researcher, a former classroom teacher, a former school board member and a parent of five children.
Dr. Ernest Morrell is the Macy Professor of English Education and Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Morell was an award-winning English teacher and coach in Northern California. He now works with teachers and schools across the country to infuse social and emotional learning, digital technologies, project-based learning, and multicultural literature into standards-based literacy curricula and after-school programs.
Celebrate the Success of Leading Educators
Finally, we’ll be celebrating the successes of our peers, with award presentations honoring Regional Superintendents of the Year, the Superintendent of the Year, Distinguished Service, NJASA President and the Anti-Defamation League.
Don’t miss your chance to connect with your peers and resources all under one roof. Challenge your assumptions about education, find new solutions, and bring them back to help your team make a difference for New Jersey public school students. An extensive exhibit hall will showcase equipment, supplies and services.
Caesars Atlantic City is the official host hotel and overnight lodging will be covered by your district if you travel more than 50 miles to the conference. Register no later than Monday, May 2, to avoid a late charge or walk-in fee. We look forward to seeing you there!
Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at www.njasa.net, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs. Our goal is to help New Jersey students get the best possible education and keep administrative costs down. http://www.njasa.net//site/Default.aspx?PageID=1489
There’s a learning curve whenever you begin a new job. But the stakes are considerably higher in jobs that have a great impact on others. That’s why the state mandates that new district-level administrators serving under the provisional School Administrator Certificate complete the School Administrator Residency Program (SARP) as the final step of qualifying for those positions. Recently, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA) was given the responsibility of administering this program.
If you’re an aspiring administrator, it will be important to understand this requirement. Students, families and taxpayers also should know the extensive process that this residency entails, to understand the high level of qualification demanded by the state. Here’s why SARP is so effective in preparing participants for leadership roles.
SARP Takes a 3-Pronged Approach
Grounded in leadership standards and adult learning best practices, SARP allows candidates to apply that theory to the work that they’re doing. It is a highly individualized and personalized program that takes a three-pronged approach that includes one-to-one support, group support and instruction in best practices.
The SARP Process Overview
The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) requires the following steps for SARP candidates:
SARP is generally a one-year program. There are exceptions, such as when a mentor determines that a second year of residency is necessary, or if the Certificate of Eligibility includes a two-year stipulation. There is a registration fee of $1,750 for the program, which includes attendance at the New Superintendents’ Academy and a legal publication subscription. The SARP fee is sometimes covered by the district’s Board of Education.
A Thoughtful Match of Mentors
The SARP program takes into account the challenges faced by unsuccessful mentor programs, which fail due to superficial mentor training and haphazard mentor selection often based merely on seniority (Daresh, 2004). In addition, mentors also have cited a lack of available time to meet as a frequent challenge (Alsbury & Donaldson, 2006; NJASA survey results). Therefore, the NJASA SARP does thoughtful mentor screening and matching, taking into account geographic location and time considerations. The program’s requirements stress relevant interactions rather than busy work.
Candidates contact NJASA when they have an offer of employment. At that time, we review the pool of mentors to identify logical matches based on geography, district type, district size, district factor group, background, training, and areas of strength. Every attempt is made to ensure a pool of racial and gender diversity. We provide a minimum of three names with relevant information and contact information to participants, along with guidelines to consider when interviewing and selecting a mentor. The candidate selects his or her mentor.
At a minimum, mentors are required to meet with participants face-to-face on a monthly basis. They also must evaluate them at least three times. At the conclusion of the program, the mentor provides the final rating: Approved, Insufficient, or Disapproved.
Inside a SARP Plan
Because school administration is a multifaceted job, the SARP plan addresses a variety of areas, including:
The value of completing the SARP program goes beyond a state requirement. Candidates who successfully complete this process are highly qualified, and well prepared to take the helm of the local district.
NJASA is the only professional organization that oversees the SARP program for New Jersey school district administrators. Click here for more information on SARP, and other programs offered to New Jersey chief education officers at www.njasa.net.
2016 will be a pivotal year for New Jersey’s public schools. We will be navigating some of the fallout from Governor Christie’s bid for presidential attention, tackling unresolved issues from 2015 and making way for new legislation to replace No Child Left Behind. Here’s a look at what lies ahead of us, and what it means to administrators, educators, parents and students.
From ‘No Child Left Behind’ to ‘Every Student Succeeds’
We’re finally able to bid goodbye to the antiquated ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) legislation. While well-intended, this act’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was unrealistic at best and punitive at worst. It took years of significant work in the educational community and within Congress, but in the last weeks of 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), shifting authority back to the states for student achievement.
ESSA will roll out in 2016 with less stringent guidelines than NCLB and two important distinctions. It will separate teacher evaluations from student performance. It will put student achievement in the hands of the state rather than the federal government.
A Change in the Common Core
Governor Chris Christie has called an end to the national Common Core standards in New Jersey. Whether part of his presidential bid or sound educational policy, time will tell, but the governor is following a number of states that also have pulled out of Common Core. They’re claiming it ineffective and rewriting and rebranding new standards under their state banners.
In New Jersey, Governor Christie has assembled a task force of parents and teachers to review the Common Core standards and make suggestions for improvement. Their report and recommendations were released on January 11 to the Commissioner and State Board of Education. The State Board will review these recommendations and propose any changes to the existing standards for public input. In the meantime, schools will continue to test students with the PARCC assessments based on the Common Core. New Jersey is one of just six states currently administering the PARCC, and there’s a separate task force looking at student performance and achievement. It’s report was also released this week with recommendations for graduation requirements introduced at the latest meeting of the State Board of Education.
A Constitutional Amendment to Prevent Pension Shortfalls
The underfunded public employee pension fund will again be in the spotlight in 2016, as legislators consider an amendment to New Jersey’s constitution that would require the state to fully fund employee retirements. The resolution introduced by Senate President Stephen Sweeney would not need Governor Christie’s approval to be placed on the ballot. Voters will weigh in on the question at the same time that they choose the nation’s next president.
If this proposed amendment is passed, New Jersey will have a hard time skipping out on bigger pension payments. But it’s unclear where the money may be coming from. Governor Christie has advocated his own plan, freezing the current pension system and moving employees to a 401(k) style plan that’s more affordable for the state but one that also includes less generous health benefits for retirees.
What’s the value of a good education? Ask the valedictorian who just received her acceptance letter from Princeton, the special needs student with the skills to score his first real job, or the potential high school dropout who was motivated to return to school. They all can share perspectives on why New Jersey public school districts succeed.
Each year NJASA celebrates these successes by finding Chief Education Officers who can be named the statewide Superintendent of the Year and regional Superintendents of the Year. They are selected based on their leadership qualities and their ability to inspire others.
Judith Ann Rattner, superintendent of the Berkeley Heights School District, is our 2016 NJASA New Jersey Superintendent of the Year. Her district has earned top honors both regionally and nationally. The Early Childhood Center and one of the elementary schools have been designated Star Schools by the New Jersey Department of Education. Governor Livingston High School was designated as a Reward School. New Jersey Monthly ranked it among the best high schools in the state. Newsweek and the Washington Post named it among the best high schools in the country. Over 95 percent of last year’s high school graduates are continuing their education at colleges and universities.
Berkeley Heights’ success is due in part to innovative programs that address the needs of a range of learners from students with special needs to those taking honors classes and beyond.
Project Read, a Language Arts Literacy Program, engages students with learning differences.This research-based, multi-sensory approach to reading helps these students make meaningful progress. Another intensive, highly individualized program supports learning in the context of vocational and paid employment settings. This gives students with significant disabilities access to independent living skills.
Project Connect is another of Superintendent Rattner’s legacies. Using a project-based team approach to learning, this program has encouraged high school students to build their skill sets to the point where they are enrolling in more honors courses.
The one-to-one iPad program brings technology into the high school curriculum for every student. Berkeley Heights was able to do that with less than a two percent increase in budget.
As a past president of NJASA and the 2015-2016 Interim President-Elect, Superintendent Rattner’s influence extends well past her school district. Here is just a sampling of her involvement over the years.
New Jersey Council of Education
With leaders like Superintendent Rattner, who care deeply about the future of education, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of our students—our future leaders. For my video presentation on this award, click here. For more information on the role that Chief Education Officers are playing in the success of New Jersey schools, visit www.njasa.net. We invite you to follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter and become part of the conversation on educational excellence.
The tech giant Google knows a little something about innovation. To help inspire creativity, the company encourages employees to work 20 percent of their time on a project of their choosing. As a result, Google has inspired divergent critical thinking and exciting new projects from Gmail to AdSense. But Google’s 20% Time Program isn’t relegated to tech companies. It’s a great opportunity for schools to foster meaningful learning, too.
If this idea sounds intriguing, you won’t want to miss NJASA’s TECHSPO 2016, January 28-29 at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, N.J. Now in its 21st year, TECHSPO is New Jersey’s premier educational technology training and exhibition conference for school leaders. It’s the place to be if you’re searching for proven ways that students are learning and teachers are educating with emerging technology.
We’ve expanded the expo to bring you more tech solutions. We’ll be hosting 1,000+ K-12 educators and administrators plus nearly 100 workshop and exhibition showcase leaders. We’re putting them all under one roof to create the largest education technology conference in New Jersey. Here’s what you can expect.
Two Inspiring Keynotes
Meet Kevin Brookhouser, high school teacher and Google Apps Certified trainer. Kevin is author of The 20time Project: How Educators Can Launch Google's Formula for Future-Ready Innovation. His keynote speech on Fueling Future-Ready Students will inspire you to organize a Google-style 20% program in your district. It also might just launch the next generation of Google engineers.
John Shammas is not your average APP developer. For one thing, he’s just graduated high school. Exploring Photoshop at age three, he began his freelance web design career at age 11. He currently serves as technology liaison and developer for Old Bridge Township’s public schools, and consults for international retailers.
In two short days at TECHSPO, you will have new ideas and tools for the year and beyond. You’ll also have a chance to connect with educational leaders from around the state so you can problem solve and brainstorm when you get back to your districts.
Don’t miss your chance to take your district to the next level!
Register today at www.njasa.net.
Follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter and be part of the conversation on educational excellence.