Murphy swipes back at Sweeney over minimum wage

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy teamed up with IBM to announce a new STEM education program. It’s called P-Tech, and it enables high school students who are passionate about science and math to get an industry mentor, internship experience and an associate degree in science while still in high school.

“Those middle skills jobs — where if you look up anything about where the economy is headed — if we get the innovation economy right, in particular, we already have the largest concentration of scientists, engineers, and Ph.D.’s in the world in New Jersey, which is a fact. What we are going to be missing are going to be the products that will come out of a Panther Academy, out of a P-Tech. These are really good paying jobs, high value-added, highly skilled, high paid,” Murphy said.

The P-Tech model was codeveloped by IBM and has been adopted in eight other states and four other countries.

“As you’ve heard, P-Tech schools provide students to earn both their high school diploma and a two-year college degree — and this is not just any college degree,” said Grace Suh, vice president of education at IBM Corporation. “This is a degree that is aligned to labor market standards in a competitive STEM field. It’s also a degree that’s unburdened by student debt.”

New Jersey will spend $900,000 in state and federal funds to launch the program next school year in three New Jersey districts — Burlington City, New Brunswick and Panther Academy High School in Paterson.

“This program can best be described as STEM on steroids. It doesn’t get stronger than this, as far as economic opportunities are concerned,” said Paterson Mayor Andrew Sayegh.

“The P-Tech model, codeveloped by IBM, brings together public high schools, businesses and county colleges to create clear career pathways for students. And it’s an extraordinary, extraordinary model that’s been tried and tested all over the country, and I believe, Grace, in parts of the world as well,” said Murphy.

In a Q&A with reporters, Murphy was asked if he had any response to Monday’s criticism by Senate President Steve Sweeney. Murphy held a minimum wage rally in his office Monday while the rest of the State House was focused on marijuana. Sweeney said Murphy should stop showboating on minimum wage and get it done.

“We stood up with advocates yesterday. Many of whom who were standing with me were making $8.60 an hour. That’s not showboating. That’s peoples lives. That’s people’s ability to put food on the table for their kids, to be able to afford health care, to address food insecurity and hunger issues in the state. That’s not showboating. That’s real,” Murphy said.

Murphy also addressed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s planned meeting with President Trump Wednesday to talk about Gateway Tunnel funding, saying he will be there in spirit.

“I’m thrilled, if the story is true, that the governor is meeting with him. That’s a good thing, including for New Jersey, and I wish him nothing but the very best,” Murphy said.

Tuesday’s announcement had all the earmarks of a Murphy initiative — promoting the innovation economy, focused on schools in high poverty areas and roping in the private sector.