Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gubernatorial Hopeful Phil Murphy Raises Profile

Update: This post was accurate at the time it was written. 

Aside from that, since 2015 my opinion of Phil Murphy has cooled.  I've written a series correcting deceptive and inaccurate things he has said.

  • Phil Murphy Doesn't Understand State Aid
  • Why the 2010 Aid Cuts Were Unavoidable
  • The Phantom Budgetary Salvation: Cutting Tax Incentives
  • Dear Phil Murphy, Massachusetts Doesn't Have High Taxes
  • Phil Murphy Overpromises

  • Former Goldman Sachs executive and Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy is raising his profile for an anticipated gubernatorial run.

    Murphy's vehicle for his campaign is "New Start New Jersey," an organization committed to the progressive vision, with many references to New Jersey's middle class

    New Start New Jersey has two sections which relate to education; first on "Free Community College," next on "Early Childhood Education."

    Murphy is wading carefully into the jungle of K-12 education.  His website does not address controversial topics in education like testing, charter schools, teacher tenure, or state aid.

    However, the section on Early Childhood Education (not written by Murphy personally) has a factually correct history of Abbott decisions and SFRA.

    In 2008, New Jersey adopted the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), which removed the non-Abbott designations, essentially combining the ECPA and Abbott pre-K programs. The SFRA would phase-in an expansion of the Abbott preschool program to all three- and four-year-olds in another 84 high-poverty districts and to all low-income children in the remaining districts statewide. When fully enacted, over 30,000 additional students would enroll. Unfortunately, the recent financial crisis has undercut the resources available for education. While Governor Christie has sustained funding for existing preschool programs, with $655.5 million designated in the proposed FY 2016 Budget, the expansion of pre-K dictated by the SFRA has not occurred.

    The above is all factually correct. I appreciate that Murphy cites the financial crisis for underfunding SFRA and Pre-K, in contrast to how many people and groups cite Chris Christie personally.  The Education Law Center, for instance, does not even acknowledge New Jersey has had a recession.

    Murphy also recognizes that the state's financial possibilities are very constrained.

    As indicated, resource constraints have forestalled the expansion of pre-K in New Jersey to date. With over $600 million dedicated annually to preschool and with full SFRA activation estimated at another $400 million [correction, it's closer to $700 million], the costs present a challenge in the current fiscal climate. The federal government has outlined its intention to aid states in offering preschool to four-year-olds through the Obama Administration’s $75-billion, ten-year “Preschool for All” proposal. Projections indicate New Jersey would receive around $50 million in the first year, a fraction of the state’s overall expenditure.19 Even so, the accompanying legislation – The Strong Start for America’s Children Act (HR 3461/S1697) – did not advance in the last Congress. 
    However unlikely the circumstances cast the expansion of preschool to a wider range of New Jersey’s families, discarding entirely such an aspiration would seem myopic. The state’s success in this area should lead to amplification and, in fact, has prompted suggestions for extension to all children, even if only for one year at age four.20 Continuing to secure funding for the existing pre-K model stands as the priority, closely followed by meeting the SFRA requirements. Discovering how to enlarge the policy to include more middle-class citizens also should not be overlooked.
    This is a great contrast to NJ's "Pre-K Our Way," which pays no consideration at all to the costs of Pre-K.

    New Start NJ also cites studies that purport to show Pre-K's benefits, but also some (briefer) discussion of how those benefits peter out as kids age.  

    Overall I am impressed by Phil Murphy and New Start New Jersey's honesty regarding Pre-K and SFRA funding but that doesn't change the fact that there is no money for expanding Pre-K.

    Murphy's positioning for the Democratic race is interesting.  Unlike Steve Sweeney, he has no history of deals with Chris Christie to taint him in the eyes of Democratic interest groups.  Unlike Steve Fulop, he has no history of exploiting the rest of the state for his own constituents' gain nor cronyism.

    Most very wealthy business people have something in their record that can be criticized.  I would not be surprised if something relating to Phil Murphy's time at Goldman Sachs surfaces, but how could Steve Fulop attack Murphy for anything Murphy did at Goldman when Steve Fulop worked at Goldman too?  

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