NJEA President Supports Buono for Governor, Says Education Is Improving

The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) has endorsed Barbara Buono for governor, despite working with the Christie administration on teacher evaluation and tenure reforms. NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes Buono will be the best leader for education in New Jersey, but he also believes the education system in the state is improving.

A portion of teacher evaluations are now based on students’ standardized test scores, but Steinhauer said they’re not the most reliable measure. “There are seven out of 10 factors that effect children that have nothing to do with the classroom,” he said. “Putting those in are one of the things we’re having a major problem with.”

Steinhauer said teachers don’t mind being evaluated or being held accountable, but they want to make sure it’s done right and in a manner that allows them to improve their teaching skills.

More state education funding is needed, according to Steinhauer. He said the state is still catching up to what funding was in 2010 but it is still $5 billion behind where it should be.

He said it is easy to walk into a school and see that there are fewer teachers, overly crowded classes, fewer resources and students paying for sports and extracurricular activities because they are not being funded anymore.

Despite these challenges, Steinhauer said there is progress being made in New Jersey schools, which he said that can be seen in AP tests, graduation, attendance and strides being made in poorer, urban areas. He attributes much of the progress to preschool and full-day kindergarten being more widely utilized throughout the state, but he added that there is still a lot of work to be done. He also said that despite the fact that Gov. Chris Christie has said that preschool and full-day kindergarten amounts to just “babysitting,” there has been tremendous growth in the students that attend those programs.

“Overall, if you want good education, you want to be on level, New Jersey is the state to come to,” Steinhauer said.