Candidates clash on NJ education success, policies


New Jersey's kindergarten through 12th grade students' reading and math skills have improved since 2002, according to a national study by the Center for Education Policy. But the election campaigns on both sides disagree on what needs to be done to maintain this success.

Students showed improvement at all levels except for elementary students' reading levels at the advanced range, according to the study.

"The governor has made education a top priority since taking office," Governor's Office Spokesman Robert Corrales said. "Gov. [Jon S.] Corzine broke a 40-year impasse on school funding with a formula that is rooted in our children's needs, rather than in zip codes."

But Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's campaign sees the problem in the urban centers of New Jersey rather than at-large.

"With 50 percent of graduating seniors in Newark not passing the standardized graduation exam and thousands of children on charter school waiting lists around the state, it cannot be denied that Jon Corzine has failed our children in urban centers," Christie campaign Spokeswoman Brittany Bramell said.

The achievement gaps for black, Latino and low-income students narrowed on both elementary and high school levels except for black students at grade 11, where the average test scores improved by scoring proficiency remained the same, according to the study.

"Even as he made steep cuts in the state budget, Gov. Corzine increased total funding for education by over $1.8 billion since 2006," Corrales said. "Under Gov. Corzine, New Jersey has prioritized high quality early childhood education and now, more than 51,000 children are enrolled. We lead the nation in preschool enrollment and are on our way to ensuring that all children enjoy a good start in life."

On their Web site, the Christie campaign said Corzine allocated more money to schools and is not a lasting solution to a problem that is systematic rather than budgetary.

"Chris Christie supports merit pay for teachers, more charter schools and vouchers as the means of providing the best educational choices for children in failing schools," Bramell said.

But Corzine Campaign Director Sean Darcy said the governor increased funding for education, committed billions of dollars to school construction, expanded pre-kindergarten and increased school choice by opening new charter schools.

"The governor's record reflects his deep commitment to education and improving the future of all New Jersey's kids," Darcy said. "Chris Christie, on the other hand, is extremely wrong in matters of education as far as calling pre-kindergarten ‘babysitting.'"

Christie's plans for schools include devoting additional resources for parents and teachers and ensuring a shorter process for charter school applications, according to their Web site.

The Center for Education policy is an independent, national organization that advocates on behalf of the nations public schools.  The study they released has reports on all 50 states.

For more information, please visit http://www.cep-dc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=572.


Cagri Ozuturk

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