Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Bolsters Charter Schools

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Bolsters Charter Schools

Article excerpt

Governor Christie on Thursday announced a series of reforms "without any involvement of the Legislature" to expand charter schools and make them more flexible, escalating a six-year battle with the state's largest public teachers union to reshape education in New Jersey.

Christie said the changes will give children in all communities access to the alternative schools, but the reforms already are facing a backlash from public school advocates and the New Jersey Education Association.

Speaking at the New Jersey Charter School Association's annual conference, at Bally's in Atlantic City, Christie told the crowd that "this is one of those areas that I will not stop building legacy until the minute I leave." Christie has 19 months left in his term. He implored the crowd to "take risk with me" and "expand your profile in this state" before he leaves office.

"This is a fight. Don't ever for a moment think it's not. It is a fight and that fight will only grow more intense over the next number of months," Christie said during his 40-minute speech. "I will not give up for a second, I will not give in for a second on this."

The reforms include allowing single-gender and single-purpose charter schools for disadvantaged students; easing standards for aspiring business administrators and teaching candidates; and a proposal requiring all state-operated districts to offer leases to charter schools for any available, unused facilities.

Under Christie's tenure, the number of charter schools has nearly doubled, with 39 of the 89 total schools opening since 2010. He anticipates 50,000 students to be enrolled in charter schools by next year, more than double the enrollment when he took office.

On Thursday, the governor praised "the methods, the flexibility, the enthusiasm" of charter schools.

Steve Baker, the communications director for the teachers union, faulted Christie for underfunding public schools and cherry-picking failing districts to strengthen his argument for charter schools and against public schools.

Baker also said that the state needs to "focus on making sure that the schools have the resources they need for students to succeed. …

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