Governor Chris Christie’s appeal today to the NJ Supreme Court in the landmark Abbott v. Burke case – described by the New York Times as the most important court ruling on equal education opportunity since Brown v. Board of Education – is completely without merit.
Unable to push his preferred education policy changes through the Legislature, the Governor is now making a desperate attempt to convince the Justices to do that work for him. The Governor’s court filing is a blatant end-run around the Legislature and the established process for enacting changes to existing laws.
Any changes to teacher workforce rules and collective bargaining agreements between school districts and staff members can only be effectuated through legislation. Just a few years ago, in June 2012, the Governor signed landmark reforms to NJ’s teacher tenure and evaluation laws, unanimously approved by the Legislature.
If he is now unhappy with those reforms, the Governor has chosen the wrong forum to air his complaints.
In 2011, NJ Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, in ordering the Governor to restore a sizeable cut in school funding, rejected an attempt to obtain court approval of the very same policy changes the Governor outlined in today’s court filing. Justice LaVecchia made clear that matters related to education policy are exclusively “reserved” for the legislative, not the judicial, “forum.” The Justice went on to state that the Governor’s presentation of policy proposals, before adoption by the Legislature, is “premature and laggard,” and warned the Governor against using the Abbott v. Burke school funding case as a “vehicle to obtain an indication of some judicial approval for collateral labor law and education policy reforms that are, as-yet, unadopted by the Legislature.”
The Supreme Court has already rejected the exact request the Governor is putting before them today.
If the Governor wants further changes to teacher tenure, evaluation and layoff rules, he must first take them to the Legislature for consideration and adoption.
On behalf of New Jersey public school children, Education Law Center will vigorously oppose the Governor’s motion. We will seek the motion’s prompt dismissal so that parents, educators and citizens concerned with maintaining New Jersey’s outstanding public schools can get back to the critical work of improving educational opportunity for all children.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications