As a teacher in a state where public school is mostly funded by state and local dollars, you know that whoever is elected governor has a large impact on how public education functions. So what do you need to know about the candidates in November’s Election? Let’s break it down.

Kim Guadagno, Republican, Lieutenant Governor of NJ since 2010

At a glance, Guadagno’s campaign is focused on “lowering property taxes,” “auditing Trenton,” and “creating opportunity.” Here are the candidate’s specific goals for education reform:

  • Reforming the antiquated school funding formula.
  • Expanding vocational education and apprenticeships.
  • Advancing merit pay for teachers.
  • Making higher education more flexible and affordable.
  • Expanding school choice.

These bullet points, taken from Kim Guadagno’s website, are short and sweet, but require a little more unpacking. Some issues to think about might be how teachers are evaluated, how or if system would take into account the added struggle of teaching in impoverished areas, and how this would affect the workplace. Expanding school choice, which was at the center of President Trump’s education campaign, might mean implementing a voucher system, giving parents more options when choosing where they want to send their children.

If elected, Guadagno will order “a complete audit of state government finances, operations, and programs to root out waste, abuse and inefficiencies in all areas of state government.” In addition to supporting an independently elected attorney general (New Jersey allows the governor to appoint its top law enforcement official), and “zero-based budgeting” (“forcing all state spending to be justified based upon need and cost”), Kim also wants to “ensure educations dollars get to classrooms” and “fix school procurement and construction.”

The Republican candidate promises to call on the State Department of Education to conduct an audit of the state’s 586 school districts to ensure we’re spending the money on improving education outcome for students.” She also wants to “establish a uniform, statewide procurement policy and system that will allow for the leveraging of statewide bargaining power to secure the best possible price for school goods.” Her website states, “New Jersey must also bring fairness to school construction by requiring the SDA districts to pay the same percentage on capital improvements as they do for their entire district budget.”

Guadagno also hopes to tackle the pension crisis. Here are her proposed solutions:

  • Honoring pension commitment to current retirees
  • Bringing public health insurance plans in line with private sector offerings
  • Ending all pension abuse like imposing strict ‘1 public paycheck’ rule to stop double dipping
  • Cutting Wall Street management fees
  • Transferring the management of the Police and Firemen’s pension system to a risk-bearing entity
  • Moving more public employees into cash balance plans. 

Democrats worry that Guadagno’s push to further school choice will hurt public schools. Guadagno has also ruled out tax increase. As lieutenant governor, Guadagno did not address inequality in school funding.

Phil Murphy, Democrat


Phil Murphy states on his site, “We don’t get New Jersey right unless we get our economy right, and we don’t get our economy right unless we get education right.” How exactly does he hope to improve education?

Murphy focuses on the benefits of public schools, critiquing past leaders “who would rather spend money on tax breaks for large corporations than invest in our children’s future.” Here are his specific goals for education reform.

  • Restoring and funding the only school funding formula that has been upheld by the Supreme Court;
  • Working to expand free pre-K to all families in NJ;
  • Ending high-stakes testing and replacing PARCC with shorter tests that provide real-time feedback to help educators correct problems immediately;
  • Implementing a state-of-the-art STEM curriculum;
  • Expanding access to community colleges for high school students and creating new vocational training programs to provide alternative pathways to success; and
  • Giving local communities a stronger voice in education decisions by working to end state takeovers and abandoning the top-down approach of the Christie administration.

Phil Murphy “hopes” to make New Jersey more affordable for working- and middle-class citizens. His campaign is also focused on fixing the pension system in New Jersey. His website states:

“Phil has also led the effort to boost the pension funds’ returns by calling on the state to divest from private equity and hedge funds. These investments have cost us hundreds of millions in fees while delivering only middling results. Phil will stop this practice, and ensure that pension fund dollars are put to work for the people who earned them, not for Wall Street.”

The NJEA endorses Phil Murphy, but Republicans worry that Phil Murphy’s education plans will be too expensive to implement. He hopes to cut hedge fund investments, raise taxes on millionaires, cut corporate tax incentives, close loopholes for corporations, and legalize and tax marijuana in order to raise funds, but Republicans are both critical of these methods and skeptical that they will raise enough money.

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