Friday, January 14, 2011

Gov. Christie Proposes Major Advance In Autism Education Programs

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has taken heat from the education unions over his harsh rhetoric and demands for concessions from the unions to get the state's budget under control. His budget requests to reduce state spending on education to get the budget in order have come under judicial scrutiny even though it would appear that proponents of judicial activism are misreading the state constitution's requirements to provide a thorough and efficient education system.

To that end, at an open house in Paramus Gov. Christie proposed a streamlined and more efficient manner of providing educational resources to children afflicted with autism. He would like each county around the state to establish a school for autism spectrum disorder children to better coordinate and utilize limited funds rather than spread out those funds to individual schools and students around the state.
Gov. Chris Christie said he is exploring a plan to develop a school in each county that specializes in educating children with autism.

Responding to a question during a town hall meeting Thursday in Paramus, the governor said the idea has merit because it would offer a cost-effective alternative to cash-strapped communities trying to create their own special education curriculum for these students.

The idea, if developed, would also help families who have to research on their own which school district has the best program. The governor described the schools as "centers for excellence" in each county.

"The parents in this community know which districts are the best districts and they move to those districts," Christie said. "We’re having that kind of selection happen naturally so why don’t we just do it? I’ll be working with the new Commissioner of Education on that."

The news came as a welcome surprise to Linda Meyer, executive director of Autism New Jersey, a family advocacy and research group.

"We know the governor has prioritized education reform for everyone,’’ Meyer said. "It sounds like he is aiming for equality and access for all. He wants to increase access, not just those who live in certain zip codes.’’
Opponents are apparently focusing on the possibility that the focus on autism will somehow marginalize those students with learning disabilities. I'm not sure how that would work, and if the autism proposal gets adopted and shows itself to be successful, it could lead to improved education services for other students as well.

Moreover, this clearly shows that the Governor is interested in providing a thorough and efficient education system - precisely what the state constitution mandates.

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