As the governor prepared for his final State of the State address, NJEA joined advocacy groups from across the state to participate in an event to illustrate the “Real State of Our State.” Hosted by Better Choices for New Jersey, the press conference touched on a wide variety of issues–from the environment to economics to education–highlighting the governor’s neglect over the past seven years. Under Gov. Chris Christie, the state has seen 10 credit downgrades, public schools have been underfunded by $6 billion, and one of the most poorly funded pension systems in the country has been driven deeper into crisis by his neglect.
“Not much has changed since this time last year,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer, who attended the press conference along with NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan and NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller. “New Jersey’s educators are contributing more and more to their pensions and health benefits, while the governor continues to ignore the law—a law he signed and celebrated—that requires the state to the do the same.”
Making matters worse, the governor has recently turned his eyes towards further destabilizing the state’s most valued asset, public education. Just last week, the State Board of Education, whose members have been appointed primarily by Christie, proposed a new set of regulations that would deregulate and loosen accountability for charter schools. If passed, charter schools would not be held to the same standards as their traditional public school counterparts. New Jersey tax payers would have no hope for a system of checks and balances.
“Public education remains our state’s most valued asset,” Steinhauer said. “Yet, the governor continues to undermine our public schools by expanding the presence and reducing the accountability of charter schools. You may hear the governor talk about his plans to expand charter schools—schools that educate fewer than 5 percent of all students in New Jersey. He won’t mention, however, that he plans to lower the bar for charter school accountability. In doing so, he undermines accountability to residents.
“But this governor doesn’t care about residents. What he won’t mention though is that New Jersey’s schools were just ranked second in nation by the national assessment of state’s education systems by Education Week.”
With an eye toward the future, all advocacy groups in attendance expressed hope that a new governor will bring new opportunities for the working families of New Jersey.
The Better Choices for New Jersey Campaign is a statewide coalition of over 50 organizations that fight for smart investments that strengthen the state’s communities and economy. The groups who attended today’s press conference along with NJEA include NJ Working Families, Communications Workers of America District 1, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Anti-Poverty Network, NJ Work Environment Council, NJ Organizing Project, NJ Citizen Action, Housing Community Development of NJ, and the Education Law Center.