CALDWELL, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie marked the start of the new school on Tuesday by signing a handful of education bills and reiterating calls for a longer school year.
Christie signed six bills before holding a news conference at the Grover Cleveland Middle in Caldwell, where he spoke for nearly an hour. The bill signings comes as many students return to class after the summer break and as Christie tours the state pushing a revamped state funding formula that would equalize aid to the roughly 600 districts in the state. Currently, some 30 poorer towns’ and cities’ schools get more money than others.
One measure Christie signed establishes a program setting aside $75 per pupil at private schools for security services and equipment. The Legislature estimates the change will cost $11.3 million in the first year.
He also signed legislation limiting expulsions and suspensions of kindergarteners to second-graders, unless a violent or sexual act was committed. The measure would also require an early detection and prevention program for students with behavioral issues in kindergarten to the second grade.
Other bills enacted into law would: require a review of core curriculum standards to ensure evidence-based standards for substance abuse are used; direct higher-education institutions to report graduation rates to the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority; establish an initiative to encourage the use of a program aimed at helping to identify learning or behavioral needs in students early on; authorize The College of New Jersey, Rowan University and other state colleges to make purchases and contract for services as part of a certain cooperative.
Christie also repeated calls for a longer school year. He says the agrarian calendar isn’t a valid reason for the September-through-June timeframe.
“I know we’re the Garden State. I don’t know how many kids anymore are going home to tend to the fields and that’s why they get out in June,” Christie said. “(It’s) not happening.”
He also conditionally vetoed a bill that would have established a new class of law enforcement officer, authorizing retired police officers to provide security in public and private schools. Christie wants to change the measure to require the new class of officers to undergo specialized training covering security issues that routinely arise in schools.
Tuesday was also Christie’s 54th birthday.