Transcript: NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s 2014 state of the state address – Part III

Part III: Partial transcript of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s state of the state address on Jan. 14, 2014:

In our largest school system in Newark, we’ve brought in a new organization and new resources – not only in the form of state aid – but in collaboration with parents and teachers and community leaders on the ground in Newark.

One result – we negotiated a historic contract with the teacher’s union and delivered real merit pay alongside increased teacher involvement in that process.

Most importantly, we want to encourage innovation while listening to the specific needs of our urban communities. It’s the reason why we’ve empowered our superintendents in Newark and in Camden to make choices that work best for their kids, for their parents, and their schools.

In Newark, that superintendent is Cami Anderson. Cami has moved to pay the best teachers more, to stop actions that are failing kids, to empower 50 new principals to create cooperation between the public schools and the public charter schools, and to reorganize the school system’s structure to put the focus on kids, their schools, and their parents first.

And what do we see? Well, some good early developments. Early childhood enrollment has increased by more than 1,000 students. And in her tenure, the graduation rates have increased by 10%. Newark is leading the conversation and making sure every kid – those who are behind, those who are ahead, and those who have special education needs – are lifted up.

Now, to Cami Anderson, every kid means every kid. Now, her efforts haven’t always been met without skepticism but she’s a true partner with Newark and cares about that city and its public schools.

Cami is here with us today. Cami, I’d like you to stand up so we can thank you for your commitment to the kids in our largest city. [Applause]

How bad has it been at Camden? How about this – last year only 3 students graduated college-ready. I want you to listen to that again. In the entire public school system in Camden, last year only 3 students graduated college-ready. That is obscene, and unacceptable and a breaching of the faith between those families and every level of government responsible for their education.

So what are we doing? Paymon Rouhanifard bring that same energy that Cami Anderson is bringing to Newark to Camden public schools. What he’s done in just his short tenure already – he’s turned around a perennially low-performing charter school, which is now showing some of the largest academic gains in the state. He has launched a new safe corridor’s program with Mayor [Dana] Redd, which has created safe walking routes to and from school for Camden’s children. And of the 345 students who dropped out last year, Paymon has led the effort to go door to door and has re-enrolled 50 of those drop-outs back in school.

Paymon, I’m proud of what you’ve done already. I’m excited about what the future of Camden schools will bring under your leadership and the leadership of local officials there, and I’d like you to stand up to let us thank you for your efforts and your dedication. [Applause]

Now, both Cami and Paymon have my confidence and support and this administration’s confidence and support to continue aggressive reforms needed that work best for the communities of Newark and Camden and to put kids first. Cami and Paymon are emblems of my commitment to ensuring the opportunity for an excellent education to every child in New Jersey regardless of their zip code.

Now, despite the improvements we’re seeing in Newark and Camden, I believe we need to take bigger and broader steps to adjust our K-12 education approach, to address the new competitive world that we live in.

Let’s face it, if my children are living under the same school calendar that I lived under, by definition, that school calendar’s antiquated. It’s antiquated both educationally and culturally for the world we live in. Life in 2014 is much different than life 100 years ago, and it demands something more for our students. It is time to lengthen both the school day and the school year in New Jersey.

This is not just my idea. Assemblyman [Gilbert] Wilson put this forward in 2010. And I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to get this done because if student achievement is lacking at the exact moment when we need improvement more than ever in order to compete in a world economy, we should take these steps – every possible step – to boost student achievement. And one key step is to lengthen the school day and the school year. These children need more time in school. Some of them to catch up. Some of them to excel more.

So working with Commissioner [Chris], Cerf I will present to you shortly a proposal to increase the length of both the school day and the school year. I believe that this is a key step to improve student outcomes and to boost our competitiveness. We shouldn’t wait. We should do it now, because every day we waste, our children will never ever get back. As parents, as grandparents, as aunts, as uncles, we should not stand for it, and under this administration, we won’t.

Now, many, many of our new initiatives recognize a core feature of modern American life that the quality of education and the quality of life in our communities are inextricably intertwined. That’s why this year we need to be more aggressive and bolder in fixing our failing schools and delivering a choice to those for whom today the only option is a bad option – a failing school.

It’s a moral obligation, everybody, we must give every New Jersey child a chance to graduate from high school, to be ready for college if they so choose, and to prepare for a career.

If we fail to meet this obligation, we compromise the life of that child and we hurt the quality of life in our communities all across New Jersey. So failure is not an option for us.

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