While everyone is focused on who knew what and when did they know it, what’s lost in translation is that the biggest losers in the EduGate debacle are the children and taxpayers of the State of New Jersey.
I’ve been a somewhat lonely voice over recent years pleading, yelling and sometimes screaming, for education reform. Governor Christie’s bombastic rhetoric was exactly what the doctor ordered to change a bloated, wasteful education establishment, which includes administrators and school board members in addition to the teachers union, into an efficient, world class delivery system of education excellence worth every taxpayer dollar spent on it. In one fitful pique, Governor Christie went over the edge and crashed our hopes for education excellence and, in the process, did severe damage to the state and himself.
There is so much that needs to be done to reform education in New Jersey: Accountability of taxpayer dollars, teacher and administrator accountability, expanded use of charter schools, and opportunity scholarships for children from poor families trapped in chronically failing public schools are essential, if we want New Jersey to be in the forefront of measurements of quality of life for our residents. It may surprise many to learn we are well situated in comparison to other states in quality of life measurements. Many families move to New Jersey, or select a particular town in which to live, because of the quality of our schools, but those assessments are slipping on a downward path. EduGate may have killed our chances of maintaining New Jersey’s excellence in education for our children and quality of life for our residents.
Why such a dire prediction? As the biggest spending item in our budget by far, supplemented by property taxes that are too high by far, and as the critical measure of success of a society, education needs world class leadership. Would any world class education leader now want to be New Jersey Commissioner of Education? After an honest, committed and well credentialed Bret Schundler was humiliated by Governor Christie? The only person I can think of who has the credentials and the gravitas to take on that position, who can tell the Governor to go pound salt when that’s appropriate, is Governor Tom Kean. He’s our Obi Wan Kenobi, but that’s not likely to happen.
Lost in Translation of the EduGate affair is its long term damage to New Jersey. As a Democrat, I should feel good about the damage it has done to Governor Christie, but as a New Jerseyian, I’m saddened. Perhaps there’s a Luke Skywalker out there to save the day, but I’m not optimistic.
The author is a state senator representing the 20th Legislative District