Over the next 11 months, the State Board will vote on 428 changes to regulations affecting public education in New Jersey. The proposed changes were contained in the final report of the Education Transformation Task Force.
The task force was created by Gov. Chris Christie last year; its charge was to review administrative code (regulation) and state statute (law) in an effort to reduce unnecessary regulation of school districts. Former N.J. Commissioner of Education David Hespe, who also served as current Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf’s chief of staff until last month, chaired the task force. Hespe presented the final report to the State Board of Education at its September meeting. He stated his belief that bureaucracy stifles innovation in our schools and that a "culture of overregulation" makes some educators believe that compliance, rather than student achievement, is what makes a school a success.
The recommendations were divided into seven categories. According to Hespe, the regulatory changes are intended to:
- Reduce reporting requirements that are duplicative or unnecessary;
- Reduce burdensome or unnecessary compliance activities;
- Provide flexibility in operations;
- Provide flexibility in programs;
- Provide flexibility in staffing;
- Enable high-quality, impactful professional development; and
- Clarify confusing code requirements.
While some of the proposed changes are welcomed by NJEA members, such as the removal of a requirement to base the number of custodians in a school building on a square footage calculation, others could undermine quality education. Examples include the easing of class size requirements in low-performing districts or changes that could weaken New Jersey’s high-quality special education programs.
NJEA is currently reviewing the report in detail and analyzing each recommendation.
Although it has not yet been introduced, the Department of Education has written administrative code based on the task force’s recommendations and presented an aggressive schedule for adopting the rest of the recommended regulatory changes, starting in October with code for teacher certification and professional development. A second set of code proposals is scheduled for introduction in November and a third set is scheduled for February.
Regulatory changes only have to go through the state board code adoption process, which takes about six months to complete. The process includes opportunities for public input; NJEA will provide testimony on the proposals when appropriate. NJEA members will also be encouraged to contact State Board of Education members regarding these recommendations.
Statute changes also recommended
The task force also recommended 46 changes to statutes, although these changes would be more difficult to implement than regulatory ones. Any changes would have to go through the legislative process: bills would need to be introduced followed by committee hearings and floor votes in both houses of the legislature.
Many of these recommendations simply reflect Gov. Christie’s controversial education agenda, including passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act and ending seniority rights for educators.
The compete task force report can be found at www.state.nj.us/education/reform/ETTFFinalReport.pdf.