A look at policy proposals made by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his State of the State speech Tuesday:
LONGER SCHOOL DAY AND YEAR
Christie received a standing ovation when he proposed having a longer school day and longer school year, but he did not offer specifics. He said that he and the state education commissioner would lay out details soon.
Experts say the concept has worked in many instances, in part by reversing what the education world calls “summer learning loss.” But they say it depends on how it’s done.
“If you’re putting kids with ineffective teachers for extended time, that’s not going to make a whole lot of difference,” said Eric Lerum, vice president of National Policy for StudentsFirst, a pro-education reform group.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, says it’s also important to negotiate additional pay for teachers who will be teaching more. Christie did not say whether he wants to add state funding.
Christie said the state needs to reduce its pension and debt-service costs, which he said are expected to jump by a total of nearly $1 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. “That’s nearly $1 billion we can’t spend on education, that we can’t invest in infrastructure improvement, that we can’t use to put more cops on the street, that won’t be available to improve access to health care,” he said.
He did not say how he proposed reducing the payments but did nix the idea of doing it through tax increases on high earners.
Democratic lawmakers bristled at the possibility, noting that in 2011, Christie signed a deal to require more than 500,000 public workers to increase their pension contributions in a deal that also required the state to increase its pension fund payments over seven years.
“It would be a breach of the public trust to not follow through on that,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, a Democrat.
He and other Democratic legislative leaders said Christie should not be allowed to fund new programs by cutting the state’s pension contributions.
Christie just offered a teaser on this one, saying the state has to consider changes to its tax system. He said he would lay out options next month in his budget address.
Three times, lawmakers have voted to raise income taxes on high earners to fund other priorities, including reducing the state’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes. Christie vetoed the bills all three times.
Christie reiterated his call to amend the state constitution to keep “dangerous criminals” from being allowed free on bail before they are tried.
Christie called for providing $500,000, to be managed by a nonprofit group, to help place recovering drug addicts in jobs and help them remain employed.