When it comes to breaking promises – and the law – our governor takes a back seat to no one.
While we will leave it up to federal prosecutors and others investigating the mounting scandals surrounding Chris Christie, on one particular matter there can be no further conjecture.
He has deliberately and repeatedly violated the state’s school funding law, and our students are now more than $5 billion short of what the law says they need.
As the Education Law Center (ELC) points out, the governor’s FY2015 budget proposal “marks the fifth straight year of his refusal to comply with the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), New Jersey’s landmark weighted student formula enacted with bipartisan support in 2008, and upheld as constitutional by the NJ Supreme Court in 2009.”
Wait – isn’t our governor basing his national political aspirations on his ability to build bipartisan consensus? Apparently not if it involves adequate funding for New Jersey’s public schools, because this governor has been an unmitigated disaster for public school funding.
Despite the Legislature’s strong support for SFRA (it has rejected his illegal attempts to modify the SFRA formula in the past two budgets), the law now faces yet another year of under-funding, with the hardest-hit districts being the poor, mostly urban districts that the governor routinely dismisses as “failure factories.”
He’s obviously oblivious to his own failure to give those students the resources they need for an adequate public education, and ignores the fact that he is in violation of the state constitution – and two state Supreme Court rulings that upheld SFRA’s funding levels.
This governor is happy to impose one unfunded mandate after another on local school districts (has anyone yet calculated the cost of his new evaluation system, the Common Core, or the PARCC assessments that will drive them?), but blithely ignores the state’s responsibility to pay for them.
The result? According to the ELC, state aid levels in 80 percent of our school districts are now below what they were in 2009-2010, when Christie took office. It’s only going to get worse as Christie’s “reforms” take hold.
All we get from him is rhetoric about “helping kids” and “rejecting the status quo,” when in fact his administration is doing real harm – repeatedly, in budget after budget – to New Jersey’s students, while pushing more and more charter schools as an alternative to traditional public schools.
NJEA and a growing number of organizations, parents, and even students are now pushing back, standing up to this governor’s deliberately dishonest ineptitude. He must be exposed as the total failure he has been as governor, and our struggling public schools are the most blatant example.