Collingswood Superintendent Scott A. Oswald gives the governor a mixed grade on education plans for New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie called for a 10 percent cut in state income taxes and mapped out a comprehensive education and pension reform plan in his second annual State of the State address last Tuesday.
"I will not permit anyone to re-impose the tax raising, overspending, irresponsible ways of our past which led to our dark decade of joblessness in New Jersey," Christie told the Senate and Assembly members gathered in the Statehouse.
In the coming year, Christie said he would fulfill a promise he made in 2009 that "every New Jerseyan" regardless of income, will see a cut in taxes. The governor said the state is in competition with other countries and other states to bring jobs to its residents.
Christie also called for statewide reform of the education system, including tying objective measurements to tenure, allowing districts to remove the least effective teachers ahead of more junior staff members in the event of layoffs and giving higher salaries to teachers in failing districts.
He also called for reforming the state's process for authorizing new charter schools and establishing tax credits for low-income students in the state's worst-performing schools.
"These are not radical reforms; they are common sense. They are not rash; they are long overdue. And they are not luxuries which can afford to languish for another six months or another year; they are essential for New Jersey’s success," he said.
Christie ended his address by reiterating that the state is better off now than it was two years ago, before he took office.
"We have climbed out of the hole that was left to us—together. Now it is time to raise the great flag of the State of New Jersey as high as we can—together."
Collingswood Public School District Superintendent Oswald said Christie's address mimicked last year's strategy.
"In the area of education, the governor's ideas are carried over from 2011. Some are good, some are not so good," said Oswald. "We'll see what gets past the Legislature."
Most of Christie's plans, said Oswald, will not be felt in the short-term future.
"Nothing will impact us immediately, except for the teacher evaluation requirement that's coming down the pike—which will have serious budget implications," Oswald said. "While most agree that teacher evaluation needs to be tightened, and more useful feedback provided, the models approved by the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) are commercial in nature, and expensive.
"The DOE can do a better job here, saving millions across the state. I'm not certain why they will not commit to this. A valid and reliable evaluation system must be the cornerstone of any reform to the tenure system—one of the governor's main agenda items," said Oswald.
Read the full text of Christie's speech here.