The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2010 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
| NEW JERSEY | Pensions, Evaluations Hot Topics in New Jersey
Battles over pension changes and teacher evaluation took center stage in the Garden State in 2011, but the year ended with question marks on both.
The Democratic-controlled legislature approved a bill that increased pension and health-care costs for public workers, and that was backed by Gov. Christie, a Republican. But it sparked a lawsuit by the statewide teachers’ union and other labor groups.
Lawmakers failed to act on a law requiring half of each teacher’s evaluation to be based on student test scores, and half on other measures, such as classroom observations.
Lawmakers approved a fiscal 2012 budget boosted precollegiate aid by $1 billion, but the final, $29.7 billion version Gov. Christie signed revised that figure to $850 million. Aid to pre-K-12 education in fiscal 2012 is $8.3 billion, an 11 percent increase over the previous year.
The fiscal 2012 budget included full K-12 funding for poor urban districts that have been involved in the decades-long Abbott v. Burke funding lawsuit. The state attorney general ordered additional pre-K funding for those districts in fiscal 2012.
About 200 districts, including the Abbott districts, sought the state supreme court’s help in getting back $1.6 billion in cuts the governor made the previous year. But the court ordered funds restored only to the 31 Abbott districts, in the amount of $500 million.
New Jersey also adopted a tough anti-bullying law that expands investigations to include off-campus incidents, requires educators to report bullying, and appoints a bullying specialist for each school.
| PENNSYLVANIA | Facets of Pa. Governor’s K-12 Agenda Foiled
The Keystone State’s new Republican governor laid out a sweeping plan to revamp education, but by year’s end, most of his goals were unmet.
One of Gov. Corbett’s highest-profile aims, to create taxpayer-funded vouchers to help low-income children pay for private school, passed the state Senate but stalled in the House. Another high-priority issue for the governor, basing teacher evaluations in part on student test scores, went nowhere in the legislature.
Gov. Corbett did win passage of legislation that makes it tougher for local school boards to raise taxes. Under the new law, boards don’t have to have public referendums if they wish to raise taxes because of the rising costs of special education or pensions.
Lawmakers also approved a fiscal year 2012 budget of $27.2 billion, which was 4 percent smaller than the previous year’s. It included an 8 percent reduction for K-12 schools, from $10.4 billion—including federal stimulus money—to $9.6 billion.
A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 2012 edition of Education Week as Capital Recap