Schools Furor Likely to be Christie's Next Fight

Image: Schools Furor Likely to be Christie's Next Fight

Thursday, 27 Feb 2014 08:14 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The future of the Newark school system is shaping up to be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's next political headache, Politico reported.

The state took over the troubled schools in 1994. Superintendent Cami Anderson, appointed by Christie three years ago, has been under attack by the teachers union and parents groups who are demanding that the system be turned back to the "the people."

Newark's schools are facing severe budget troubles including the loss of $56 million in state aid, the Star Ledger reported.

To complicate matters, Christie's education commissioner Chris Cerf is leaving at the end of the month for the private sector.

Anderson temporarily suspended five principals for going public in their opposition to her plan to reorganize the system, close some schools, and transform others into to charter schools, Politico reported. The principals filed a federal lawsuit accusing Anderson of violating their rights to free speech.

The Newark superintendent also warned that about a third of the system's 3,800 teachers will need to be laid off in the next three years. She has asked the state education department to allow her to terminate teachers based on their educational effectiveness as well as seniority, the Newark Star Ledger reported.

Current teacher layoff policy is "first in, last out." Anderson said that adhering to that system would risk losing good teachers who lack seniority.

Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso, said "It's not being done for educational reasons. It's being done because she created a shortfall in the budget by hiring her friends and by overspending on consultants and legal fees, and now she needs a way out."

The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has written to Christie opposing "mass closings, mass firings" and privatization, as well as decrying what she said were failures in management, fiscal stewardship and leadership.

Politico reported that Christie's efforts to return to a business-as-usual posture and move past the Bridge-gate scandal could be setback by the "volatile" opposition in his state's largest city to his specially selected schools superintendent.

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