The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2009 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.
The Garden State begins 2010 with a new governor, Chris Christie, a Republican who ousted one-term Democratic incumbent Jon S. Corzine in November.
Mr. Christie, a former prosecutor, drew notice in education circles for his strong support of charter schools and voucher programs. Education activists were gearing up for a close watch on how Mr. Christie would allot money to education in 2010, because he had pledged to focus on cutting taxes and state spending.
|Gov.-Elect Chris Christie (R)|
At $28.6 billion, New Jersey’s fiscal 2010 budget was $4 billion leaner than the previous year’s. But aid to precollegiate education was one of the few areas that saw an increase, up $300 million from the 2009 spending plan, to $8.5 billion. Some $2 billion in federal aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, along with increased taxes and cutbacks in a program to rebate property taxes, helped avert cuts.
Nonetheless, budgetary realities forced Mr. Corzine to scale back an initiative authorized in his 2009 budget that would have extended full-day preschool to more low-income children.
The state’s new funding formula for schools was challenged in court in 2008 by a group of poor urban school districts as a violation of the long-running Abbott v. Burke finance case. But in May 2009, the state supreme court sided with the state, which had argued that the new formula—which establishes a base amount and adds “weights” for categories of disadvantaged students—is constitutional.
Under a bill signed by Gov. Corzine in June, 13 “nonoperational” school districts—which run no schools, but send their students to those in adjoining districts—were eliminated, reducing the total number of districts to 613. Another 13 such districts are slated for elimination in 2010.
The New Jersey state school board approved tougher high school graduation requirements in 2009, along with a set of end-of-course exams required for graduation. The states alternative graduation exam was revised to tighten up what some saw as loopholes, including moving its scoring from school officials to state-approved centers.
A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2010 edition of Education Week as New Governor Backs Charters, Vouchers