Monday, June 30, 2014

The Year of Living Danielson

Education professionals across New Jersey just finished their first year under the new evaluation system that was part of the landmark bipartisan TeachNJ law signed by Gov. Christie in 2012. My school district uses the Danielson rubric developed by Charlotte Danielson. It evaluates everything from the way educators greet their students at the door to how well students can actually teach themselves. When I first saw the training videos, my first reaction was that I could be 'highly effective' if I worked in China where total student compliance and obedience is expected. Although I ended the year as 'highly effective' (and no, my students weren't totally compliant and obedient) I still have many doubts. Any evaluation system that outright tells its subjects to 'live in 3 and vacation in 4' (on a scale of 1-4) is demoralizing and contrary to the basic philosophy of learning in the US: shoot for the stars because anything is possible. Educators would never tell their students to do that, so why should we be expected to perform that way? I don't think Ms. Danielson had any intention of her framework being used as part of the high stakes evaluation system we now have where educators can be fired based on student test scores. In this interview she points out the fatal flaw with evaluating teachers in such a manner.

Let’s say I teach 4th grade and my students’ scores on pre-post assessments in reading have increased a lot. I’m happy, my principal’s happy, and the parents are happy.
But it’s hard to know that I was the one who actually caused that gain. It could well be there’s a reading specialist in the building. Or it might be last year’s teacher had some great strategies and students are still using them. 
It might not have much to do with me. So until somebody has figured that out, we’d better not be making high-stakes decisions about teachers’ performance. (emphasis mine)
There also are psychometric and measurement challenges that one confronts when addressing teacher practices. They have mostly to do with the training of evaluators. 
The good news is we now know how to do that, as a result of our research. That’s not the case with the measures of student learning. 

Who you gonna call? Myth Busters!

Contrary to popular belief, educators here in the Garden State have always been evaluated, with non-tenureds receiving more than tenureds, and everyone receiving a year-end review. We have to write professional development goals at the beginning of each year, and there are consequences if we fail to meet those goals. Our lesson plans and student performance have always been subject to administrator scrutiny. But politicians and the billionaires who support them (and who own many media outlets) have controlled the message for the better part of the last decade. They've sold the general public a bunch of hokum about our profession, our students and our schools, and have managed to get many laws passed based on that hokum. But the rank and file educator doesn't have access to news media the way they do, so we've been playing catch up over the past few years to get our message out. but rest assured, it's getting out.

Stop the [testing] world, I want to get off

In the short life of this blog I've enjoyed the exchange of ideas that comes from it. I want it to be as much about your stories as mine. To that end, I've decided to share stories of educators' experiences with the new evaluation system this year. To a person, every education professional I had contact with this year was stressed beyond belief. The added workload was insane (on top of an already insane workload), the hours and hours of mindless data collection, filling out forms, graphs and charts, attending meetings to boost test scores, all took away from the actual art of teaching and the joy of learning. More and more veteran educators told me they are calling it quits rather than subject themselves and their students to any more of this (excuse my language) bullshit.

Students felt it, too. They are now tested in every subject in one way, shape or form. Personally, I administered my very first—and my very last—pencil and paper test. I refuse to subject my students to a test I know they will—and are supposed to—fail. I will find another way because as doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to 'first do no harm', I too must do no harm to my students.

So, here is the first in what I hope will be a series of educators' reflections on their 'Year of Living [Danielson]' (or Strong or Marzano or whatever framework they use). If you'd like to share your story, let me know in the comments section below and we'll connect.

The Circle of [Education] Life

So I received my end-of-year summative evaluation today. I did all right. We use Danielson, and I'll share that on a scale of 1-4, with anything above 3.5 considered "Highly Effective," my number sets me as solidly effective. I'm grateful, really, but a couple of things occurred to me. 

By setting bands of "teacher effectiveness," we are paving the way for merit pay for educators. I have no issue with people who are better than me making more money than I do; I have serious issues with the process we're forced to use to prove value.

I spent many years in high-level corporate sales positions. I knew that my compensation was directly tied to my ability to close. I accepted the position and compensation package, and frankly, I did well. When I got back into teaching, I accepted the cut in pay and the value of seniority/experience. I set out to better my skills, learned a new generation of music and tech, earned my masters and managed to get my kids to learn. 

I guess what I'm rambling to is: teaching is not selling; teaching and learning are intimate human experiences. To see that intimacy reduced to a number with a decimal point feels somehow, cheap. Let's not even discuss whether or not the person(s) doing the evaluation understand the subject well enough to make an accurate judgment. 

To then take that number and base compensation upon it is, simply put, ludicrous. Not only does it totally depersonalize the intimate, it serves to dehumanize both teachers and students. Moreover, how does a district budget for varying degrees of compensation? If a finite amount of money determines how many teachers will receive merit-based raises, the process is skewed from inception.

I know many of my colleagues are extremely discouraged and disheartened. In New Jersey at least, there's a bill in the state legislature looking to delay some of the implications of this new 'reform.' Even Bill Gates, one of the major architects of the new "school of education," has said through his foundation to hold off on evaluating teachers using a methodology cast off by MicroSoft. 
Don’t get me wrong – I believe in continuous improvement. As a musician my daily goal is to be better than I was yesterday. Teaching is an art, and I try to apply my goal there as well. The problem with these systems is that they fail to account for basic human differences.

I am a good teacher. I am able to reach most of my kids, but I am a very different kind of teacher than my colleague in the next room who is able to reach most of her kids. If we were able to switch out the kids we couldn’t reach, we might just get them all. Unfortunately, logistics preclude that kind of approach so we have to just keep trying with the kids we have. The packaged evaluation systems just don’t account for organic ingredients in the classroom. What is the personality mix of the students, and how does the teacher’s personality mesh?

Further, even though my colleague and I are both good, our personalities and approaches are very different. We have discussed several times that it would be difficult to adopt each other’s approach to the work, just because of who we are individually.

When we were exposed to the Danielson model (we also studied Marzano), it seemed like the things we were being presented would indeed help improve our practice of teaching. Those who had not been paying attention to the world of education “reform” over the past few years, and those who had never worked in Corporate America, did not see the potential ramifications of putting teachers into bands of effectiveness level.

Now that a percentage of our evaluation is based on students test results and/or arbitrary measures of student “growth,” they are beginning to understand. It’s my prediction that, unless something changes, contract negotiations throughout the state will include provision for levels of effectiveness influencing at least a portion of teacher compensation. That would be fine if the systems were accurate and objective. As long as there are subjective humans in the mix, often with their own personal agendas, there is and will be no objective measure of teacher effectiveness. Teacher compensation in this model will result in principals playing “favorites,” even if doing so unintentionally.

I honestly believe that things will turn around in education. People are resisting all over the country and across the political spectrum. However, there will be an awful lot of heartache (there already has been since the decimation of public education in 2011) before the ship rights. It will. Those who think they can profit from our children's future will have to offer a product so inferior that customers won't accept it. They will clamor for a novel concept - public education.

I just hate the wasted time and energy. 

Mike Kaufman is “about to start my last year as a public school music teacher in New Jersey.” An instrumental music teacher in Pennsauken, Mike graduated with a degree in Music Education from Montclair State (then) College in 1977. He has taught in districts throughout the state, and outside of school settings has taught people of literally every age. His teaching career was interrupted by a 15-year hiatus into corporate sales and marketing positions, particularly in the high tech sector.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More ways to create 100 excellent schools in Newark

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to really create 100 excellent schools in Newark as opposed to Superintendent Cami Anderson's One Newark plan which involves closing schools, expanding charters, firing staff and disrupting neighborhoods. I listed 20, and asked readers to submit more. After incorporating your suggestions in an initial update, I realized that if we are going to get to 100, it needs to be organized. So, here's what we've got so far: 45 great suggestions arranged by categories for your easy viewing.

Many thanks to all who've submitted suggestions both here and at Blue Jersey. Keep 'em coming! I've credited those who were OK with it and respected the anonymity of others. While many educators are in the throes of end-of-year insanity, please keep your suggestions coming after the dust settles.

Banish Inequality

  1. Every school should accept and retain every child who walks through its doors—no exceptions. Charter cheerleaders love to say that their schools are public schools. That's a myth. Unless a child does something truly horrendous, a public school can't expel them, but charters can. The attrition rates among Newark's charter schools are unacceptable. Charters must be held to the same standards as public schools. Anything less in a public school system is discriminatory.
  2. The attrition rate for African-American boys in charter schools must be addressed.


  1. Create a community of support and shared ideas between schools. Start by visiting this very excellent school and see how a caring principal and staff work together with parents and administrators to make a safe, fun, engaging learning environment for all the students.
  2. As the great philosopher, Vanilla Ice, once said, "Stop, collaborate and listen.” But seriously, do that; it's pretty solid advice.
  3. From Jeff Grossman: Create an environment of collaboration. For example, assign mentor teachers to work with novices. Create teacher cohorts that are given ample common planning time. Ensure that all teachers take part in a peer evaluation system and have an opportunity to observe, and learn from other teachers that are teaching the same grade and/or subject as they are.
  4. Professional development must extend beyond the 4 walls of an individual school. Educators in all schools within a district should be sharing ideas and best practices.


  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate with staff, parents and the community. You simply must attend BOE meetings and listen to everyone whether you agree with them or not.
  2. Engage parents and community. You can't have excellent schools without them. 
  3. Meet regularly with your PTO/PTA executive committee. They are a direct line to parents and they are vital to the success of a school.

Curriculum and Instruction

  1. Technology should enhance the curriculum; not drive it.
  2. Read Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences then implement it. All students don’t learn exactly the same way, yet most of the reforms we see in education are narrowing teaching and learning so that only those students who are good at wrote memorization and test taking will succeed.
  3. From Jeff Grossman: Limit classroom size. Study after study has shown that this is a proven method for improving student performance.
  4.  Provide meaningful professional development for educators. PD should be research based (that would be vetted research) and address the specific needs and concerns of the student population. 
  5. Leave ideology at the door. You may desperately want to implement a reform because you believe it will work, but unless you can back it up with real research, best to leave it out.

Don't Close Them

  1. Closing schools disrupts families, destabilizes neighborhoods and makes people very, very angry—especially when their neighborhood school is doing a good job.


  1. Provide lots of extracurricular activities. Many students in high poverty school districts don’t have the resources to take private music, art or sports lessons. Their parents may not be able to drive them to scouts or other civic organizations. A strong extracurricular program run by educators, that gives students a variety of creative, social and athletic outlets keeps students engaged and involved, and fosters self esteem and pride in their school.

It Really Is All About The Poverty

  1. From Tamar Wyschogrod: Poverty alleviation creates excellent schools. Affordable housing creates excellent schools. After school programs create excellent schools. Jobs for parents create excellent schools. Health care creates excellent schools. Safe streets create excellent schools. Good nutrition creates excellent schools. Racial and socioeconomic integration create excellent schools. Oh, and reducing class sizes. That's a good start.
  2. 'Rigor' won't solve poverty. 

It Really Is All About The Children

  1. Listen to students. It's their education, not yours. When students feel connected and valued they will engage in their learning. Right now they're not happy.
  2. Let kids be kids. 'No excuses' charters teach one thing: submission. That is not conducive to nurturing a young, creative and very active mind.

It Takes A Village To Educate A Child

  1. From Melissa T: Realize that schools need to play a vital role in the community as a provider and supporter of wrap around services. Schools are supposed to involve and support the communities, not alienate them.
  2. Expand the role of schools in the community. If Harlem Children's Zone can offer support services to parents like job training and substance abuse counseling, why can't our public schools? 
  3. In my district parents serve on many committees: Health and Wellness, Safety, Scheduling, and many more. It's their school, they should be involved.
  4. Teachers should be involved in running summer and after school programs as much as possible. They already have a relationship with the students so it's easier to help them succeed. 

More Funding, Not Less

  1. Get as much money into the classrooms as possible. A teacher can't teach without adequate supplies. It’s very difficult for a school to improve when funding has been slashed.
  2. Invest in infrastructure. Students cannot learn and educators cannot teach in buildings that are unsafe, vermin infested and lack basic sanitary systems. If you build clean, well lit, safe and inviting buildings, drop out rates will drop, so you won’t have to close schools.
  3. From Patti Grunther: Do NOT hire administrative staff that is unnecessary (e.g. assistant superintendents in a school district where many schools are in disrepair or without basic supplies) at high salaries, give them enormous raises and then lay off teachers due to a deficit you yourself created.

Related Arts Are Vital

  1. Build a strong foreign language curriculum. If you really want students to be able to compete in a global economy, they have to know how to communicate. If the federal government wants to meddle any more in public education, mandatory bilingual education is something worth fighting for.
  2. Build a strong fine arts program. Many students who are not successful academically, are very creative. They need to know they can be successful in school. Cutting the arts can have a devastating effect on some struggling learners. Public education must educate the whole child; not just the part that takes standardized tests.
  3. Want to help boost math scores? Don’t cut music programs. Music is math. The human brain is prewired for music, and research has shown that studying music can help students improve math learning.


  1. Build a working relationship with your teachers association. Signing a contract then trying to renege on it builds distrust and animosity. Unions did not cause the issues many students in Newark face, but unions have many good solutions for helping students succeed. We've been doing it all across New Jersey for decades.
  2. Be compassionate even with those who disagree with you. Education is a nurturing environment. If you don't bring a healthy dose of compassion with you every day, you're in the wrong profession.
  3. Don't fire teachers. Mass firings of teachers erodes morale, arouses suspicion among staff, students and parents, and does not work.
  4. Listen to teachers. They—not billionaires, business people nor the politicians they support—are your best source for best practice in education. They—not billionaires, business people nor the politicians they fund—work with students every day.

Set Realistic Expectations

  1. Don't believe in miracles. Yes, I did just say that. Miracles don't happen every day, that's why they are miraculous. Quick education miracles only happen on TV. The Texas and DC 'miracles' have both been debunked.
  2. Define 'poor performance'. Test scores are not the sole arbiter of excellence. Statistics don't tell the whole story of why X-number of students in a particular school are 'not succeeding'. Where are the successes? Do the students feel engaged and excited about learning? Are they happy to be there? Are they putting forth a good effort? Are the parents engaged and supportive? These are all signs that a school is on the right track even if their test scores are low. 
  3. Broaden your definition of 'excellence'. An excellent school does not have every student performing at a proficient level, but it believes every student can get there. There's a difference between believing in children and believing in an unproven ideology. The first one can succeed; the second one is DOA.
  4. Build on successes. Set 1 or 2 reasonable goals a year. Too much change too quickly overwhelms, stresses and angers everyone.
  5. Slow down. Rome wasn't built in a day. Real education progress takes time. Developmental milestones happen for a reason. They can't be rushed or forced. When you push too hard against children, they push back, and that ain't pretty—or fair.

Teach, Don't Test

  1. Test prep does not make students 'college and career ready'. It only teaches them how to take tests. 
  2. 'Rigor' is another word for dead. I don't want my kids' education to be dead. I want it to be alive

Who Should Really Lead Schools

  1. Hire experienced educators to lead schools. Most Broadies have little to no classroom experience. Struggling corporations don't hire teachers to lead and fix them so why should schools hire business people to do the same?

Working With At-Risk Students

  1. From Jeff Grossman: Have a safety net in place to help students who fall below grade level. Having children reading several years below their grade level for example is unacceptable, when a child falls below grade level, treat it like a crisis. Have a robust remediation staff in place and do whatever is required to ensure that students receive services in a timely manner.
  2. Make sure every school is staffed with enough social workers and child psychologists to support the needs of students suffering from emotional disabilities including PTSD and chronic depression. Yes, that costs money, but a child can't learn when they can't even function in their own skin.
  3. Treat English language learners as an asset, not a liability. They are doing something you probably never succeeded at: becoming bilingual.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Asm. Ciattarelli to NJs 1%: Keep Calm and Count Your Money

I'm sure the taxpayers of New Jersey's 16th legislative district will rest comfortably tonight knowing that their Assemblyman, Republican Jack Ciattarelli, is looking out for their financial well being. I ran against Ciattarelli in 2011 and 2013, so I was particularly interested in this piece he wrote for the Star Ledger today about that oft-touted Christie phrase, 'shared sacrifice'.

As a public school teacher, I'm well acquainted with Christie's version of that lofty and noble goal; I've done quite a bit of it in the past 5 years as my paycheck has gotten smaller and my workload and the number of jobs I hold have gotten larger. Although this is not WWII England and Christie is no Winston Churchill, Ciattarelli is doing his best British government impersonation as he allays the fears of the 1%:

That's right, folks. In the run up to the June 30 budget deadline, Ciattarelli wants to publicly ease any fears his super wealthy constituents may have about anything that may harm a single blade of grass on their perfectly manicured and gated lawns. He wants to make sure that the "mega-rich" (a word he never wants us to utter lest it suggest "that Republicans are 'shielding a certain population'", and they would never, ever do that, now would they?) are not fettered and stressed as they count their money and compound their interest. But you and me? Pshaw! We better just hunker down in our bomb shelters 'cause that blitzkrieg on the middle class and the poor ain't lettin' up any time soon.

(Hey, sorry for that run-on sentence in that last paragraph, but that's what happens when I've been fed a steady diet of cow pie for 5 years.)

"Elected leaders should be prepared to ask all New Jerseyans to be part of some 'call to arms.'"

Yes!! Let me grab my sword and shield, utter some profound parting words, kiss my children goodbye, and head off to fight the good fight for... Who? You? Me? Not in Ciattarelli's eyes.

Assemblyman, where was your call for shared sacrifice to reinstate the "millionaire's tax" (another one of your 'never, ever' words) when Gov. Christie failed to renew it, thereby giving a tax cut to those making over $500,000? Where was your call for shared sacrifice when Gov. Christie vetoed an increase on the earned income tax credit, thus taking real dollars out of the hands of the poor? Where was your call for shared sacrifice when Christie tried to pass an income tax cut that even the Office of Legislative Services said would have greatly benefitted the wealthy? Because as much as you try to deny it, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the "1 percent" (another 'never, ever' phrase) in New Jersey pay a much lower portion of their income in overall taxes as compared to the rest of us:

"How about re-engineering and reducing our state workforce?"

In Christie's first 19 months in office, the state workforce was reduced by almost 29,000. That was 29,000 middle class people collecting unemployment and not contributing to the economy. That was 29,000 middle class people who were not able to pay their bills or put food on the table or save for emergencies. That was 29,000 middle class people who lost their jobs so the 1% could keep more of their money. That was 29,000 middle class people—some of whom may still be out of work. That's 29,000 less middle class people who work in our schools, libraries, police and fire departments, who fix our roads (but there's no money for that anyway), who keep our courts, hospitals, state, county and municipal offices functioning. But I guess that's ok for the 1% because as you point out, even though "they pay exorbitant taxes on their homes... many times [they don't use] all the local services those property taxes fund." Yes, because they can afford to send their children to some of the best private schools in the country instead of the increasingly underfunded public schools. They can hire their own security details, so who cares if the local police force is decimated? They have landscapers on call when the Bentley needs to be plowed out. The private jet is waiting at the local airport so it doesn't matter if the major roads are a disaster. And even if they do have to drive to Newark, they aren't actually driving. No, they don't really need New Jersey, but I'm so glad they are here because what would we do without them? After all, aren't they the job creators?

The "successful... should not be demonized. Nor should the poor or struggling middle class."

In all seriousness, you are absolutely right. Anyone who works hard to earn a decent wage should not be demonized. But they should also be expected to share the sacrifice, and quite simply, thanks to policies you support, they aren't, and that's why so many people are so mad. And the more Republicans shield them from real shared sacrifice, the more they will be demonized because the rest of us are getting screwed. We are being demonized for everything from being able to bear children, to needing to eat, to simply being poor. And the economic climate in this state is so dismal that there is very little hope for many of us who work hard every day to pull ourselves up out of the hole that we did not dig ourselves into.

"How about public employees not collecting a huge payment upon retirement for unused sick and vacation time?"

The state and municipalities have always had the ability to scale back or eliminate sick and vacation payouts at retirement. It's called the bargaining table. But as we've seen time and again, many Republicans are all too eager to attack organized labor—one of the last vestiges of a strong middle class—while giving billions away in tax breaks to the wealthy, and big corporations that either don't pay a decent wage and benefits, or don't deliver the jobs in the first place.

How do you spell bankrupt? R-E-V-E-L
If you and other Republicans want to continue to push austerity measures which, by the way, only benefit "the mega-rich" (another of your never, ever words), please tell Christie that if he is going to reneg on the state's legally obligated pension payment this year, he should stop investing some of it in boondoggles like this. ------>

"How about replacing the double-dippers' grandfather clause with a sunset provision that ends the practice once and for all?"

Well then... I expect you've been leading the charge on the investigation into that messy little situation with Lt. Governor Guadagno's term as Monmouth County Sheriff. That story's been kicking around for a few years and I haven't seen your name attached to any investigations.

“The documents show Guadagno made false and misleading statements to enable Michael Donovan to continue collecting pension checks that should have stopped, and that she helped him circumvent the rules by playing around with job titles,” said Mark Lagerkvist, investigative editor for New Jersey Watchdog, who sued for release of the documents. “Based on the information released, there is a real question whether the Division of Criminal Justice did the legitimate investigation that the PFRS (Police and Firemen’s Retirement System) Board asked it to do.”

Christie beat the double-dipping war drums when he ran in 2009, but has done nothing to change the system. So you can lay the blame for that squarely at his feet. You can hem and haw all you want about Dems blocking any legislation, but just take a look at the roster of Democrats Christiecrats who endorsed him last year. 'Bipartisanship' has a completely different meaning in NJ, especially when you see how many R's and D's are enjoying that double scoop of pension on top of their government sundae. It's an equal opportunity loophole—one that I agree needs to be plugged. But if Christie spent half as much time excoriating the 'greedy' and 'selfish' (his words, not mine) public employees who do that instead of rank and file workers, he'd have had that sewn up a few years ago.

Don't worry, Assemblyman, I wasn't grandfathered into the pen-ben bill, so I'll have to work until I'm 67 before I retire. But before you go throwing around $40,000 pension caps, consider this: many retirees' pensions are nowhere near that much. And their cost of living has been frozen for the past four years. Then, consider this: pensions are more stable than 401(k)s. You want people to work longer, pay more into the plan (which we're currently doing) get less when we retire (also currently doing), and now you want to change the rules of the game again to create less stability for retirees when they did not cause this mess in the first place? And you wonder why the 99% think the 1% are getting off easy?

"How about making a new case for freezing state aid in school districts whose current aid and/or cost-per-student exceed state averages by, say, 150% or 200%?"

... Because low income students don't need any more help than their more financially stable suburban counterparts—even the ones who can afford to attend $30K/year elite private schools. *Sigh* I will leave the school funding debate to the experts. If you really, truly want to educate yourself on school funding and why NJ's beleagered but still highly effective school funding formula works for our low income students, start reading Jersey Jazzman and Dr. Bruce Baker—both NJ educators, both experts in their field, both have done their homework and have debunked the reformy rhetoric.

Leveraging "New Jersey's fiscal crisis for political theatre and gain"

May I remind you that your governor, the one you and the rest of your fellow Republican legislators down in Trenton have failed to stand up to time and time again in matters affecting the middle class, the poor, senior citizens, children, women, healthcare, public education and a whole host of other issues, takes the cake. Do I really need to explain?

"Leadership is putting your own political ambitions aside, rallying the people around a common cause and solving New Jersey's challenges in the best interest of all its citizens."

Assemblyman, it's time to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, not only on the issue of state workers and how they are compensated, but a whole host of other issues. As one of your constituents, I'll be watching very closely over the next 20 days to see how you stand up for all of us.  

And I'll be watching how your caucus votes on the Sandy Bill of Rights veto override Thursday. You know, that little bill that both houses unanimously passed, that Christie conditionally vetoed, that Sen. Tom Kean has now announced you all won't be supporting?  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

NJ GOP is not stronger than Superstorm Christie

For those readers old enough to remember, this image is a parody of the fierce reaction to President Gerald Ford's infamous but false response to NY City's 1970's financial crisis. Even though he never said those words, he might as well have because his reaction to the city's request for financial help was part of his political undoing. 

My point is not to rehash what happened 40 years ago so, gentle readers, please limit your comments to current events. If you want the back story, read this NY Times piece. In a nutshell it was a classic case of liberal vs. conservative values locked in a game of Chicken. The only difference is that unlike many of today's elected officials, both sides blinked: they came together and worked it out. 

With 30 years’ hindsight, some of the players say that if Mr. Ford had acquiesced to the city’s appeals months or even weeks earlier, New York might never have recovered. 

“Ford was good for New York, because he made us clean up our act,” said Henry J. Stern, a former parks commissioner and city councilman.

On balance, investment banker Felix G. Rohatyn said, “I think he was a plus. Ford did change his mind, and you can’t say that about every president.”

Edward I. Koch, who succeeded Mr. Beame, said of Mr. Ford: “Obviously he was persuaded his original position was wrong, and that shows a great man open to change. I hold nothing against him. And there are very few people, even when they’re dead, that I hold nothing against.”

2014: This isn't Ronald Reagan's version of bipartisanship

While worshipping at the feet of the tax-raising, deficit-raising, federal spending-raising, amnesty-giving, Ronald Reagan, Gov. Christie forgets that despite their political and philosophical differences, Reagan and then House Speaker Tip O'Neill had a good working relationship. Although Christie touts his ability to work across the aisle, he and Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney are no 'Tip and the Gip'. Case in point: last month he conditionally vetoed the 'Sandy Bill of Rights'.

The bill (S1306), sponsored by Sweeney (D-Gloucester), passed the state Senate 34-0 in March. But Christie conditionally vetoed it on May 12 — proposing more than 150 changes and removing entire sections — including the bill’s name.

... "including the bill's name" because in Gov. Christie's eyes, people who've lost everything, who've been homeless for over a year and a half, who've endured endless days, weeks and months of bureaucratic runaround, who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, who have lost their jobs, their businesses, their neighborhoods, their schools—their entire way of life—who still can't find decent temporary housing don't deserve to be treated with basic human dignity. They don't deserve a Bill of Rights. Maybe because they can't write big donation checks to the RNC.

But according to Christie, what they do deserve is $5 million in taxpayer dollars given to a politically connected firm to create "Stronger Than The Storm" tourism re-election ads prominently featuring him and his family because, you know, nothing says Jersey Shore like the Christie family sitting on a beach during campaign season!

A whole new game of Chicken

I've been trying to find the right adjective to describe the behavior of Senate Republicans. Sorry, I can't dig down far enough into the sewer, so I will let them speak for themselves:

In a letter today to Sweeney on behalf of his members, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union) said they won’t be voting against the governor. 
“While we support much of the concept behind Senate bill 1306, we do not believe it will achieve these worthy goals if enacted in its current form,” Kean wrote. “As stated in the Governor’s conditional veto, provisions of S-1306 are in direct conflict with numerous federal laws and regulations and the original version could harm the very people it intends to help.” 
Kean also said the bill would force New Jersey to “prioritize” aid for Spanish speakers “if the original outreach efforts were not deemed sufficient.”
Sweeney in a statement called Kean's letter "disgusting" and "sickening." 
"This is the height of hypocrisy. The Republican members of the Legislature are so scared of doing anything in opposition of this governor that they won't even support getting basic answers and information to people who've lost their homes. It's disgusting. There was nothing wrong with this bill when they all voted for it in March and now, suddenly, they all oppose the exact same bill. This is sickening. And the worst part is their cowardice is merely punishing folks who've already lost so much."
The bill was written in response to complaints from residents and businesses about the slow pace of Sandy aid distribution.

What in God's name happened between the time that vote was taken and Christie red-lined that bill? My guess is that, as he has been rumored to do, he paid a little visit to the state Republican caucus and ripped a few people a new one. Pretty easy to do when you are Fundraiser in Chief for your national party, and your 'bipartisanship' consists of bullying and intimidating anyone and everyone in Trenton without a backbone.

What's so terribly, horribly wrong with S1306:

For all you policy wonks, here's the bill that the Office of Legislative Services approved, and here's his conditional veto.

The bill clearly says that anything in it that is contrary to federal rules gives deference to those rules, so the complaint that some of it is not compliant with federal guidelines is patently false.

Is it my imagination or do a lot of the vetoed items seem petty and self-serving? For example:

He doesn't want you to know how much damage Superstorm Sandy Caused:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 13: Delete “inflicted more than $36 billion of damage on New Jersey,”

He doesn't want you to know that recovery efforts are far from complete:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 18: Delete “far from” and insert “not yet”

He doesn't want you to know that too many people have been victimized by his botched handling of the relief effort, even though this bill passed with bipartisan support:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 19: Delete “Since the recovery effort began, too many victimized” and insert “Recognizing that there are numerous challenges associated with the efficient and expedient distribution of federal recovery resources following a disaster of the scale of Superstorm Sandy, the processes for

He doesn't want you to know that there are problems:
Page 2, Section 2, Line 22: Delete “These problems”

He doesn't want certain Sandy victims to have rights (this is actually line 31):
Page 3, Section 3, Line 32: Delete “, shall have the following rights” and insert “is treated fairly in that process”

He doesn't want storm victims to have the right to appeal an "award amount, a placement on a waiting list, a contractor selection, or any other decision that the applicant might reasonably view as unfavorable." Seriously?!?
Page 3, Section 3, Lines 44-46: Delete in their entirety

And possibly the most damaging red line to Sandy victims is the fact that he doesn't want any information that is available in English to also be available in Spanish. Here's what the bill says:
6 (7) The right to access all information on recovery and 
7 rebuilding programs in both English and Spanish. Whether online, 
8 over the telephone, or through in-person communications, all 
9 information provided on a recovery and rebuilding program in 
English 1 [must] shall1 
10 be available concurrently, accurately, and 
11 comprehensively in Spanish, and in any other languages required 
pursuant to State or federal law1 12 . 

Here's his conditional veto:
Page 6, Section 3, Lines 1-15: Delete in their entirety

Read it for yourself, folks. I'm not making this stuff up.

With micromanagement like this, does anyone really believe he didn't know what happened on the GWB?

Not stronger than the storm

Sen. Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and the rest of the Trenton GOP are boarding up their shops and issuing an evacuation order against the threat of Superstorm Christie. This is a disgrace and it's a slap in the face of every man, woman and child who is still homeless some 20 months post-Sandy.

But grass-roots organizations like New Jersey Working Families and Fair Share Housing have been pressuring state agencies to indeed be 'stronger than the [Christie] storm'. Just yesterday it was announced that
The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency's board voted 6-0 to approve new guidelines for distribution of a second round of 4190 million in federal money for the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing.

Time for action

On June 12, the state legislature will attempt to override Gov. Christie's veto of the Sandy Bill of Rights. Here's what you can do:
  1. Contact your state legislator and demand that he/she votes with the override. There's a link to their contact info on the right side of this page. 
  2. Send a Tweet to the following legislators and urge them to support the override:
    Sen. Tom Kean: @TomKean
    Sen. Jen Beck: @JenBeckNJ
    Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-Ocean): @JimHolzapfel
    Sen. Bob Singer (R-Monmouth & Ocean): @BobSingerNJ

Final thoughts

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Gov. Christie doesn't care about you or me. He doesn't care about the middle class or the poor or single mothers or children or teachers or cops or firefighters or senior citizens or minorities or the LGBT community or public schools or anything or anyone else he has screwed over in the past 5 years because they can't further his political ambitions. And now we can add Sandy victims. There is only one person Chris Christie cares about: Chris Christie.

George, you nailed it.