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12-9-16 Education in the News

NJ Spotlight--Bid to Allow Public Pension System to Invest Heavily in TTF Bonds

There’s a bipartisan move to have the pension system buy more transportation fund bonds than previously allowed, in the belief it would be mutually beneficial

After going through much of the year with its future in question, New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund was recently shored up thanks to last month’s gas-tax hike. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to use the restocked TTF to help out the state’s perennially underfunded public-employee pension system.

A bill introduced earlier this week would allow the $73 billion pension system to invest heavily in TTF bonds just as the state is planning to ramp up transportation spending over the next eight years.

Right now, the state Division of Investment, which manages the pension system’s assets on a day-to-day basis, is only allowed to purchase up to 10 percent of an individual bond issue. The proposed legislation would get rid of that limit, but only for TTF bonds.

The sponsors of the legislation said it makes sense to give the pension system — which is $44 billion in debt, according to the state’s estimates — the option to invest heavily in transportation fund bonds because that way all of the interest on the bonds would go into the pension system instead of to outside investors. They also said the state could save money on underwriting fees, which are levied as a percentage of the bond issues, to further stretch the TTF’s resources.


John Reitmeyer | December 9, 2016


NJ Spotlight--With Some Gains in Camden Schools, Local Control Is Put on the Table

State-appointed superintendent says some autonomy may be seen ‘sooner than later’

The state’s decades-old school takeovers in Newark and Paterson, and to some extent Jersey City, still raise questions about when these districts will be allowed to function autonomously. To date, however, Camden has been left out of the discussion as the new kid on the block.

After all, it was just three years ago that Gov. Chris Christie announced the takeover of what was then one of the lowest-performing districts in New Jersey.

But Camden has to some degree come back, under the guidance of state-appointed superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard and the fast growth of new charter and renaissance schools. That’s led to some open discussion about how long the state’s intervention will last.

Rouhanifard came before the State Board of Education this week to give his annual report a mostly upbeat presentation that highlighted gains in both the district and the new renaissance schools, a hybrid charter school that operates separately from the district.


John Mooney | December 9, 2016


Asbury Park Press--Battle lines drawn in teacher tenure battle

Gov. Chris Christie, looking to remake public education in New Jersey, has proposed weakening teacher tenure rules and the power of union contracts, as part of a host of reforms billed as the recipe for turning around low-performing districts and at once  slashing funding to mostly urban school districts. A new report argues he needs to hit the books a lot harder — before students are further harmed.

"There is nothing remotely 'fair' about cutting essential rungs out from the ladder of economic opportunity for low-income and working-class children across the state," said John Whiten, vice president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, which Thursday released the organization's first comprehensive critique of the governor's policy prescriptions. "The governor's proposal would be a huge step in the wrong direction for our kids and our state's future."

The battle lines, however, have already been drawn. Christie and other groups have filed lawsuits hoping to force the reforms through New Jersey's educational establishment. They would enable schools to layoff low-performing teachers more easily, cut money from urban schools, and distribute state aid uniformly across New Jersey, providing windfalls for affluent districts, where residents pay  the highest property taxes in the nation..



Amanda Oglesby , @OglesbyAPP 5:04 a.m. EST December 9, 2016


Education Week--'Fake News,' Bogus Tweets Raise Stakes for Media Literacy

 Media literacy is suddenly a front-burner issue for schools, thanks to the recent presidential election, a spate of reports on “fake news,” and new research demonstrating just how ill-equipped young people are to critically evaluate information they encounter online and via social media.

As a result, educators find themselves behind the eight ball, expected to help students negotiate everything from internet hoaxes, to partisan policy advocacy disguised as unbiased news, to a President-elect who has used Twitter to spread baseless claims originating in unfounded conspiracy theories.

The stakes are high, contend the Stanford University researchers behind a widely cited recent study, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning.”

“We worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish,” the group wrote.

Such concerns aren’t entirely new. For years, researchers have documented students’ widespread inability to gauge the reliability and trustworthiness of online information. In 2006, for example, University of Connecticut researcher Donald Leu conducted a study in which middle schoolers unanimously fell for an internet hoax about a made-up endangered species—an octopus that lives in trees.


Benjamin Herold |December 8, 2016