Thomas H. Kean Administration Education Timeline



January 19
Thomas H. Kean is inaugurated as the 48th governor of New Jersey. In his inaugural address, Governor Kean promises to “strengthen the basics of education: reading, writing and arithmetic,” while simultaneously encouraging teachers and students to continue “striving for excellence, and searching out new horizons of intellectual growth.”
More from the New York Times available here.

Governor Kean nominates Ronald Lewis to be Commissioner of Education, but then rescinds the nomination after Lewis is accused of plagiarism.
More from the New York Times available here.

Saul Cooperman is selected to be the Governor’s Commissioner of Education.
More from the New York Times available here.

December 16
In its first override of a veto by Governor Kean, the legislature authorizes a “Moment of Silence” at the start of the school day. Kean had vetoed the bill saying it was “bringing prayer back into the schools.”
More from the New York Times available here and here.


Governor Kean charters the first Governor’s School of New Jersey. The Governor’s schools are created through funds raised from private donations and foundation grants. These schools, in several disciplines for high-achieving students are located at colleges across the state. The Governor’s School of Public issues was hosted at Monmouth University in 1983. In 1984, the School of the Sciences began at Drew University, and the School of the Arts was inaugurated at The College of New Jersey. In 1989, the School on the Environment was added at Richard Stockton College.

The National Commission on Excellence in Education convenes and releases “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform.
More from the New York Times available here.

Governor Kean begins to plan for education reform . His agenda included: increasing beginning salaries for teachers from $13,000 to $18,500; implementing new licensing requirements, enabling prospective teachers to obtain alternative certification.

December 7
Governor Kean, in a speech delivered at the National Forum on Education, calls for a renewed national commitment to education and teacher quality, with a focus on salaries, professional licensing, and maintenance of morale and development.


Governor Kean announces plans to establish academies for the advancement of teaching and management as well as new approaches to urban education. He introduces a pilot program, Operation School Renewal, through which three urban school districts sign 3-year contracts with the state in which they promise to improve students’ performance on state tests, attendance and provide technical skills.

Governor Kean supports rewarding outstanding teachers with merit pay, carrying a cash component of $5,000, in hopes of creating and incentivizing “Master Teachers.” The NJEA sees this as a threat, forcing teachers to compete. He also supports the Governor’s Teaching Grant, which give $15,000 annually to a teacher or group of teachers who develop effective teaching techniques.
More from the New York Times available here.

November 6
$90 million bond for facilities and programs and public and private institutions of higher education that will promote employment in science and technology is passed by public question.
More from the New York Times available here.

Governor Kean becomes the Chairman of the Education Commission of the States (ECS), a forum for governors to discuss and evaluate education programs across the country. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton is named Vice Chair and later succeeds Kean as Chair. The two develop a lasting working relationship and friendship.


July 23
NJ Supreme Court decides Abbott v. Burke I. This begins a string of suits that are still ongoing today.

September 9
Governor Kean signs legislation that guarantees state public school teachers a minimum salary of $18,500 and sets up a statewide teacher-recognition program. The new law gives New Jersey teachers one of the highest minimum salaries in the nation. An “alternate route” to teaching certification also goes into effect. Governor Kean also signs into law legislation creating an annual monetary award for outstanding teaching.
More from the New York Times available here and here.

November 5
Thomas H. Kean re-elected Governor with the largest margin in New Jersey history, including strong support in urban centers and among disadvantaged populations that typically support Democratic candidates.
More from the New York Times available here and here.


“A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. The Report of the Task Force on Teaching as a Profession” calls for national standards of certification, increased pay for teachers in addition to other ideas, most of which were already being worked on in New Jersey.
More from the New York Times available here.

Governor Kean unveils a plan which would enable the state to intervene in the operations of school districts that consistently fail to meet state competency levels.

In a speech before the National Urban League, Governor Kean speaks of some city schools as “warehouses filled with unfilled human potential.”

July 6
Governor Kean signs Assembly bills A1173 and A1177 that create the State College Autonomy Act, deregulating the state’s public colleges and universities.


Governor Kean speaks before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), proclaiming that the failure of urban schools to teach is a form of “educational child abuse.”

The State Senate defeats Kean’s school-intervention proposal. Kean responds that if re-elected in November, he will find ways to stop funding schools that “will not educate children.”


Governor Kean signs his school-intervention bill into law. He receives national recognition and is praised by President Reagan.

August 15
Governor Kean delivers the keynote speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans. His book, The Politics of Inclusion, published by Free Press, advocates political cooperation among historically divided interest groups and politicians. It includes his plan to provide quality education to all children in New Jersey.

November 8
$350 million bond for computer and other technological facilities at public and private colleges is passed by public question.


The State wins a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling allowing it to take over the failing Jersey City school system.

October 5
New Jersey becomes the first state in the country to assume both educational and administrative control of a school district when it takes over the Jersey City school system.
More from about the Jersey City Schools takeover in the Star Ledger available here, here, and
here and from the New York Times available here.


January 16
As Governor Kean completes his second term, James J. Florio is sworn in as New Jersey’s 49th governor.