N.J., Pa. governors stump for education agendas

Gov. Chris Christie is urging the New Jersey Legislature to act on his education reform proposals.

The governor visited a classroom at Secaucus High School. The school district is one of 10 where a pilot program to develop a new statewide teacher evaluation system is in place.

Christie also said he wants an update of the state’s charter school law and more alternatives for children in poor-performing schools.

“Make no mistake about it,” he said. “There is no issue that’s more important to the future of our state and, candidly, to our country than putting the opportunity for a quality education within every child and family’s reach no matter where they live or no matter their economic circumstances.”

Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said the state is seeking a waiver of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law to give the state more flexibility in spending federal education funds.

“If we are not going to live in a state where to be poor or often to be minority basically means your birth circumstances are your educational destiny, if we are going to fix that, we can not be laissez-faire about this anymore,” Cerf said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett held a rally for his education reform plan at First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School.

Several hundred children at the school in the Tacony section listened as the governor explained his four-part education plan. It includes vouchers, more charter schools, tougher teacher evaluations and tax credits for businesses that fund scholarships.

Critics say the plan would weaken the public school system and leave disadvantaged students behind. Corbett counters that his emphasis is on choice, competition and giving up on things that don’t work.

“My answer to them is, maybe they ought to do it differently. Maybe those schools, those school buildings need to compete,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Senate has approved some of Corbett’s reforms, including vouchers for students at 143 of the state’s worst-performing schools. The proposal is awaiting a vote in the House.

Corbett said he is hopeful that the bill will become law this year.

In New Jersey, Christie, who has long locked horns with the state’s teachers’ unions, said the unions have been an absolute obstruction to change.

While he said he knows he won’t get all the reforms he wants, Christie said he hopes to reach a compromise with lawmakers to get some of them enacted.

Christie also said education aid could be withheld from schools that don’t show progress in improving student performance.

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