Saturday, February 6, 2016

POSTED: Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 5:13 AM

New Jersey community colleges seeking to offer four-year degree programs suffered a significant setback yesterday when an advisory board comprised primarily of the state’s public college and university presidents voted against the proposal by a margin of one vote.

The presidents of Union and Passaic community colleges had asked the New Jersey Presidents’ Council for permission to expand their nursing degree programs to meet a pressing need for nurses with bachelor’s degrees and higher.

But the council split – two-year schools versus four-year schools – with baccalaureate-granting institutions narrowly outvoting their county-college counterparts. The matter now heads to state Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks for her approval without a recommendation from the council.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 5:12 AM

Last year some New Jerseyans were outraged by the implementation of PARCC, a new set of assessments that gauges student proficiency to meet state standards in language arts and math. Now that test scores are in and vitriol is down, what can we glean about the contextual value of PARCC?

As a recap, remember that last year’s arguments against PARCC testing had far less to do with the purported accuracy of new tools to measure student learning than concerns about a new evaluation system that links student growth to teacher and administrator job security.

For better or worse, a compromise between state legislators and union lobbyists diminishes that reciprocity. PARCC was not ‘high stakes’ for students and now it’s not high stakes for educators.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 5:11 AM

Democratic legislative leaders are hoping to ask voters later this year to approve a constitutional amendment that would require the state for the first time to begin making contributions into the public-employee pension system on a quarterly basis.

Right now, the state makes those contributions in one lump sum at the end of each fiscal year, a practice rooted in the irregular tax-collection trends experienced under New Jersey’s current financial calendar and Gov. Chris Christie’s decision in recent years to maintain budget reserves that equal only a small portion of total spending.

The debate: The state’s ability to overcome those challenges is at the heart of a debate over the proposed constitutional amendment that is expected to play out over the next several months in New Jersey leading up to November, which is when the proposal to require quarterly pension payments is expected to go before voters.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 5:10 AM

Many people in New Jersey rode out winter storm Jonas relatively unscathed; others were far less fortunate. Emergency crews had to rescue some 60 residents in Wildwood, according to WHYY NewsWorks. Other parts of the Jersey Shore were flooded out. Ice was reported to be floating in the streets of Margate.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that may Shore residents took particular exception to Gov. Chris Christie’s often self-congratulatory statements about his response to the storm.

“When the chips are down, I deliver,” read the headline on one of several press releases issued by the governor’s office starting on Saturday. Ironically, another release, “New Jersey Played it Smart and Safe” was accompanied by a CNN video labeled “Storm Surge Floods New Jersey Coast.”

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 5:05 AM

Garden State residents who think they’d like to spend their golden years in New Jersey may want to think again. A recent report on “2016’s Best and Worst States to Retire” puts New Jersey six slots from the bottom of the list, with an overall ranking of 46, compared with all other states and the District of Columbia.

What are the key factors holding New Jersey down, according to findings from WalletHub, the personal finances website? For starters, it’s expensive, ranking 42nd, compared with New York (48), Hawaii (49), Connecticut (50). Rhode Island, at 51, is ranked the least-affordable state.

New Jersey comes in just under the average for quality of life (24), finishing 40th for museums per capita. Surprisingly, it finishes 46th for number of healthcare facilities per capita.

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POSTED: Monday, January 25, 2016, 5:15 AM

Lost in the drama over whether New Jersey would drop the Common Core State Standards was a second report from the Christie administration this month that raised a number of important points about state testing.

The final report from the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessment was the result of year-long effort by panel members from across the philosophical spectrum, ranging from the state chamber of commerce to two panelists nominated by the New Jersey Education Association, the teachers union.

Some notable news from the report has already been aired, including its continued backing of the online PARCC exams and some recommendations for new high school graduation requirements starting in 2020.

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POSTED: Monday, January 25, 2016, 5:14 AM

The Obama administration is proposing new rules to curb methane emissions, a potent form of greenhouse-gas emissions, a step that may help deal with climate change but could hamper the fast-growing natural-gas sector.

The proposal, made public on Friday by the U.S. Department of Interior, would mostly affect oil and gas drilling on public lands. But it also would require the industry to do a better job of monitoring leaks in pipelines delivering the fuel to customers.

Both industry lobbyists and environmental groups said the proposal could raise energy costs, an outcome with implications in New Jersey, which has become increasingly reliant on natural gas not only to heat homes during the winter, but also to produce much of the electricity used here.

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POSTED: Monday, January 25, 2016, 5:13 AM

Sponsors and advocates of a bill requiring nonprofit hospitals to start paying fees to their host communities say they’ll waste no time getting back to work -- now that the measure has fallen victim to Gov. Chris Christie’s pocket veto. Time is of the essence, they say, because dates for municipal property-tax assessments and appeals are looming.

Among those that agree the matter is urgent are the New Jersey Hospital Association and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. The former favors the bill that was sent to the governor, while the latter has some problems with the one-size-fits-all formula used to reimburse host communities.

Moving forward, the goal for all involved is to head off potentially costly lawsuits in communities throughout the state, much like the one that successfully challenged Morristown Medical Center’s tax-exempt status.

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