I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Bob Ingle thinks that a skit about public employees on SNL was hilarious.

I guess it's all a matter of perception, but it seems to me, from the reaction of the audience, that the whole thing laid an egg. Compare the reaction of the crowd to Tina Fey's last Sarah Palin romp.

Bob says: " Satire always has a grain of truth, that’s why it is funny." Well, no Bob; bad satire has a grain of what the bad satirist thinks is truth, but is really nothing more than ideological posturing.

Case in point: when the woman from Precious plays a bitchy DMV worker in Bob's "hilarious" skit. See, a few months ago, I went to the Springfield DMV to renew my license. I was in and out in 15 minutes. Everyone was very friendly; the lady who took my picture couldn't have been nicer.

Compared with the last time I dealt with my private health insurance company, it was a trip to the spa. Or when Verizon Wireless screwed me over (long story). Or the auto shop...

So, no, there wasn't a ring of truth here. There was a ring of "here's another big media conglomerate trying to shift the blame to people who make mid-five figures a year while while Lloyd Blankfein sells securities he bets against."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pot, Meet Kettle

Protests against Christie's policies during school: BAD!
"The schools did a lousy job in really permitting all these students to walk out in the middle of the school day. Their parents send them there not to protest. They send them there to learn. And I have no problem with students protesting. They have absolutely every right to exercise their first amendment rights. But they should exercise their first amendment rights either before school or right after school."
Photo-ops that take up students' class-time so Christie can preen for the cameras: GOOD! GOOD! GOOD!  GOOD!

Hypocrisy, thy name is Christie.

UPDATE: I love this:
The Republican governor questioned why students were blaming the state instead of asking teachers about refusals to take wage freezes and other give-backs he said would have saved jobs.... "But the fact of the matter is that those teachers and their union have not stepped up to join the shared sacrifice. ... Their unwillingness to do that makes me wonder why the students are protesting only against what the governor is doing, and not against what their teachers are doing. I have a suspicion that since I don't give them grades and the teachers do, that might have something to do with it."
Now he's pitting students against teachers. "You know, you're only giving me a D because I refused to go out and protest!"

Can we stop pretending once and for all that he loves teachers and is only going after the union?

Two rallies

The 2010 New Jersey Education Reform Rally is tomorrow. All you need to know about its credibility is that the two big participants are 101.5's Jersey Guys and The Cartel's Bob Bowden.

Their Facebook page has 12 confirmed guests as of tonight.

1) Compare and contrast.
2) Will media coverage of the two events differ? Hmm...

Speaking of benefits...

Since the budget speech, Christie has been pushing the notion that teachers got full medical, dental, and vision coverage for free. He pushed it on Morning Joe - but he was slippery. He managed to conflate teacher benefits with state employees', which he claimed was "full family medical, dental, and vision coverage." I can't speak to state employees, but...

I'm going through open-enrollment at my school right now. Let me tell you about my "full" coverage:

It's good. But the idea that I don't pay anything toward it is ridiculous. I have co-pays, deductibles out of network, and prescription costs like anyone else. Last year I could choose one HMO; this year, it's two (POS-types). If my doctor doesn't take it, tough. And I have to go through the same bureaucratic nonsense as anyone getting employer-based health care does.

My dental isn't even close to "full." I'm paying plenty for my kid's braces; I get partial reimbursements for routine procedures. My HR person tells me to look carefully every year at the insurance, because there's a good chance it's not worth the premiums.

My vision is a free examine every year and a discount on glasses - not a big discount, either.

Listen, if it comes off as whining, it's not. Like I said, this is pretty good; not France or Holland good, but good. But the notion that I wasn't paying anything for it before the 1.5% contribution is just not true.

Fuel to the Fire

Via Capital Quickies, I hope we're going to be hearing about this as the debate goes forward:
Key findings include:

Jobs in the public sector typically require more education than private sector positions. State and local employees are twice as likely to hold a college degree or higher as compared to private sector employees. Only 23 percent of private sector employees have completed college, as compared to about 48 percent in the public sector.
Wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants, such as education and work experience.  State workers typically earn 11 percent less and local workers 12 percent less.
During the last 15 years, the pay gap has grown:earnings for state and local workers have generally declined relative to comparable private sector employees.
The pattern of declining relative earnings remains true in most of the large states examined in the study,although there does exist some state level variation.
Benefits make up a slightly larger share of compensation for the state and local sector.  But even after accounting for the value of retirement, healthcare, and other benefits, state and local employees earn less than private sector counterparts. On average, total compensation is 6.8 percent lower for state employees and 7.4 percent lower for local employees than for comparable private sector employees.
Bruce Baker at Rutgers has been on top of this for a while, but there is a ton of resistance to letting this point sink into the debate. "Teachers make up for it because they get better benefits! And summers off!"

Baker points out that it's roughly 5/6 of the time for 2/3 of the pay. And the health care and pension are good, but it's not enough to make up the low pay. Those facts, however, pale in comparison to the fear that this downturn has generated - fear that has turned to envy of those who make less put have greater perceived stability.

I recommend looking at the Powerpoint that SLGE put out with the report - although NJ isn't one of the states specifically studied. Two highlights:
State and local sector employees are disproportionately:
More educated
Emphasis mine - gee, this couldn't have anything to do with the perception that state/local workers are working easy jobs, could it?
Why We Did This Study
Reporting often is misleading
Ya think?

You don't know what's best for you

Do you see a pattern below?

So the kids who protested the school budget cuts in NJ were obviously getting duped because they don't get the real facts:
"It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever – and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey. Students would be better served if they were given a full, impartial understanding of the problems that got us here in the first place and why dramatic action was needed.”
Just like the "drug mules" the teachers use:
"Scaring students in the classroom, scaring parents with the notes home in the bookbags, and the mandatory 'Project Democracy Homework' asking your parents about what they're going to do in the school board election, and reporting back to your teachers union representatives, using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom, is reprehensible."
Of course, NJEA bashing isn't the same as teacher bashing in the Christie world:

I honor the service of good, conscientious teachers who care deeply about training the leaders of tomorrow for our state.
The leaders of the union who represent these teachers, however, have used their political muscle to set up two classes of citizens in New Jersey... Political muscle fueled by intimidation tactics, political bullying and smears of public officials who dare to disagree. 
 Because the NJEA isn't working in teachers' interests:
“If they're so concerned about the $750 a year the teachers would have to pay, you know, their dues that they make every teacher pay are $730 a year   --   just about the same amount. It raises $130 million a year for the teachers'  union. How about they just try and get by on the  $130 million they got last year, waive the dues for this year, and then their teachers would be held harmless?"
 Because they don't really care about the teachers:
It's mind-boggling that they [the NJEA] care so little about their colleagues' jobs. These are unprecedented times of financial distress.
So the teachers use the students, and the union uses the teachers. Everybody is a sap and is everyone being duped. If you disagree with Chris Christie, you're either an evil PT Barnum or another poor one-a-minute sucker.

Gee, I seem to recall another politician from not too long ago who used similar rhetoric:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jazzman Radio Silence

Light posting this week: big concert coming up at work!

The things I learn on NJ 101.5

This morning, in about a 5 minute span on my commute, I learned:

  • We're going to have a wave of teacher retirements, which is good, but it's not a bad thing to be an older teacher.
  • Abbott districts are ratholes that we throw money down.
  • It would be good to force smaller school districts to consolidate with those same Abbott districts in county-wide districts to save money.
  • No one wants to do that because everyone is corrupt.
Uh wha huh?

The biggest problem we have in NJ politics today is the media.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Retirement wave? The math says "No."

A retirement wave is coming - so says the Bergen Record:
Christie wants to cut pension and health benefits for current teachers, but would allow those who retire by Aug. 1 to get a free pass. The state’s largest teachers union says the plan, which has not been submitted to the Legislature yet, could prompt mass retirements. 
The analysis shows more than 29,300 of the state’s nearly 143,750 certified teachers — about 20 percent of the workforce — qualified for retirement, either through age or years worked, according to data from the 2008-09 school year, the latest available. 
OK, a quick primer on the teachers pension system. You take every year you work and divide it by 55. Then you multiply that fraction by the average of your last three years' salary. The result is your yearly pension.

We obviously don't know the details of Christie's plan yet, but it's safe to say we're talking about two changes for those who retire after August 1: pay part of your pension to your health care premiums for life, and base your pension on the last 5 years of your salary (or more) instead of the last three. That would, ostensibly, bring your average salary down, so your pension would be less.

Hmmm - is this incentive to retire before the changes take effect? Let's see:

We'll start with two teachers in their 35th year - call them Chris and Jon, who were making $80K in 2005. They got 4% raises each year, but their district has imposed a wage freeze for the next TWO years. And they're going to have to pay 1.5% to their health care starting next year.

Assume the Christie plan is to change your average salary period from three years to five, and to contribute 2% of your pension to health care.

Chris is going to take the deal and get out now: "I'm not gonna get stuck paying 2% for the rest of my life on health care!" He retires with a pension of $59,587.

Jon decides he's not ready to go yet and teaches another 2 years like he planned. He retires with a pension of - get ready - $62, 322! AND he has an additional $72,570 in the bank!

Chris can't believe it! What happened? Jon was supposed to get screwed in this deal, not him!

See below for the math, but it all really comes down to three things:

1) Even if you base your pension on your last five years average wage instead of your last three, you're still going to make more money on average if you keep teaching - and that makes your pension bigger. Even if you took a wage freeze this year, you made more than three years ago, and way more than five years ago.

Even if you factor in the 1.5% that you now pay on your health care, even if you assume a wage freeze for the next two years, your average ending salary will still go up, because you will make more next year than you did two years ago. And that makes your average salary over five years go up.

2) Every year you stay on the job, you get a bigger piece of your salary for your pension. If you retire now with 35 years on the job, you will get 35/55ths of your final average salary; if you wait two years, you'll get 37/55ths. Your slice of the pie gets bigger with each passing year.

3) You make more working than retiring. So, if you were prepared to stay on the job - or if, heaven forbid, you LIKE your job (we all know every senior teacher is burned out, because that's what we read...) - you will make more money NOW than collecting your pension, which is just part of your salary.

Yes, I'm not factoring in Social Security - geeze, I've got a life, I can't play around with Excel all day. Yes, the number of years in service makes a difference.

My point is that, even assuming the proposal makes stark changes, the incentive is not going to be very great for a person who could retire but doesn't care to. Might it push those on the edge a bit? Perhaps. Might the Chrises not think this through and make an irrational decision. Of course.

But I really don't think you'll get a big wave of retirements - UNLESS you make the plan much more onerous than the one I've described.

Here's the math, you geek (meaning me):

$62,321.65 $59,586.98 $2,734.67 $72,570.54

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just in Case...

Via Digby: if you haven't spent two minutes with this yet, you really need to:
Click through and look at the full-size version. This is who we are right now. I love the tea party.

"Nobody could have foreseen..."

Sharon GR over at the Center of NJ Life makes a very good point regarding Christie's whining that he didn't know things would be so bad:
Second: We all know how bad were the fiscal problems you inhereted were; we all did. If you didn't, I suggest in the future you read the newspaper. Be aware how utterly disingenuous you sound every time you complain about it- and then insist you're not complaining about it.
Disingenuous is exactly right: he knew what he was in for. He knew what he wanted to do. He lied about it during the campaign.

Remember back in the 2000 campaign, when W told us we had to cut taxes on the rich because the surplus could get too big. And then, when the deficit grew, the cure was - cut taxes for the rich!

It's the same here. Christie had an agenda - busting public unions - coming in no matter what. He's not responding to anything, and it sounds both disingenuous and stupid when he pretends otherwise.

Check out Sharon's blog while you're there. The libraries are getting screwed big time.

What a REAL governor looks like

And right across the mighty Delaware:
When he first took office, Rendell said, "I pledged that I would be the lobbyist for the children of Pennsylvania, and . . . that's what I've been." He has been making similar pitches in other parts of the state. 
"I believe with all my heart and soul that it is our moral obligation to provide an educational system that will allow each and every child to reach his or her potential," he added.
I lived in Philly back when Rendell was mayor - he inherited a huge mess. I didn't agree with everything he did, but he was a good mayor overall, and he did start to turn the city around. You could trust him with a buck, because he knew that buck could really do something to make a difference in people's lives.

But Christie is getting the appearances with "Nappy Headed" Don Imus and Joey Scar, and apparently he can now go on Fox pretty much any time he wants. He is the future the prototype "leader" the corporate media love to get behind.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hitching to a Falling Star?

Hey, Mr./Ms. Town Councilperson! Are these the kind of coattails you want to ride?
Only 33% of New Jersey residents approve the job Christie is doing as governor.
Nearly twice the number, 63% disapprove.
The election was a referendum on the economy, as these elections usually are. Ask Bruce Baker.

But go ahead: slash and burn. See how that works for you in the fall.

It's the new math.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Tao of Cory

Booker's tweets are like a book of Zen koans:

  1. "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Native American Proverb

  2. Be Honest. Be Creative. Be Yourself. = http://bit.ly/c6X9cF

  3. Earth Day Celebration today @ Bears Stadium. 3:30 Dialogue. 5:45 pre-game recognition ceremony. Bring ur old electronics 4 recycling!

  4. "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." Mahatma Gandhi

  5. Thank u everyone who voted in yesterday's school board elections: http://bit.ly/Sij2A
Uh, no, not thanks to everyone, Corey...

Our best Democratic challenger to Christie. I dunno, I'm hoping for a little more fire in the belly. We'll see.


He's New Jersey's other Boss:
So, basically, NJ school budget votes seem to fluctuate very much in sync with unemployment over the past decade (as a broad economic indicator). This relationship does erode somewhat during periods in the early 1990s and certain time periods in the 1980s.
Click on the link and look at the scatter-plot if you're a geek wannabe like me. The correlation is roughly equivalent to that between obesity and Twinkie consumption.

The school budget vote is an avatar for NJ citizen angst. Times are tough - vote down the budget. Which begs the question:

Is it in Christie's interest that we NOT get out of the economic slump?

ALSO: While you're at Bruce Baker's place, check out this:
This list of research findings is only a start, but illustrates an important point that choosing to limit taxes and expenditures likely means choosing to reduce service quality – increase class sizes and reduce teacher quality in particular. Again, that’s a choice. But we should be well aware of the consequences of these choices.
 (My emphasis)

Say it with me, won't you?

Why isn't Bruce Baker on every TV screen, radio, and newspaper op-ed page in NJ?

Wally World

Wally Edge makes me nuts sometimes; but I have to admit, there are other times when he nails it:
Of the 224 school budgets that were approved by voters, 54 of them passed with 52% of the vote or less.  Of the 318 school budgets that failed, 55 of them went down by a margin of less than two percentage points.  Statewide, voters rejected school budgets by a 52%-48% margin
Do these sounds like"mandate" numbers to you?

Smart kid

Very smart:
These new budget cuts will result in fewer scholarships, increased tuition and a sharp decline in enrollment. Aside from the effects on higher education, Christie has proposed cuts in school and municipal aid in order to close a multi-billion dollar gap.
It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t realize the consequences to his actions. His education cuts aren’t just affecting the current student body, but are detrimental for generations to come. 
You make Rocky proud, Lori!

I look at a bright young person like this and I think: "Has she considered becoming a teacher?"

What do you think the odds are of that happening?

"The schools will be FINE..."

If the teachers would just give a little, everything will be OK. The kids will never know the difference. Will they learn any worse if a teacher takes a pay freeze for a year? Everything is going to be fine...
Christie would also waive certain state mandates for local schools. The administration is reviewing suggestions to relax class size limits in poor districts, loosen requirements for special education services, allow schools to share nurses, and eliminate the mandate for 2.5 hours per week of physical education in elementary school. 
Legislative leaders have declined to comment until they see the governor’s formal proposals.
Fortunately, I am under no such constraints. That class size nonsense will not be limited to "poor" districts. "Loosen requirements" for spec ed is a euphemism for cutting it. There are many other states that have dropped nurses (my personal experience is that a school's nurse is almost as important as the principal in making or breaking a school, particularly an elementary school).

And the PE requirement. Perhaps the governor missed the news that we have an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among children these days. Perhaps he doesn't have a problem with NJ having the 36th leanest kids in the nation.

(It's so hard to restrain myself sometimes. Here's a great big grapefruit right down the middle, and I'm taking the pitch. Be the better man, be the better man...)

We're going to cut services to autistic kids, imperil children's health, and slash PE so we can give a tax gift to millionaires. Don't let anyone tell you it's not that simple.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Only now do we see this:
Noting that Christie has cut state aid to school districts by $1.09 billion, the report says that if every teacher took a pay freeze and contributed 1.5% of salary to health premiums, school districts "would still have to address a budget shortfall of at least $849.3 million" - or 77.9 percent of the proposed aid reduction.
Why are we seeing this now? After the election?

Did someone hold it back? Or did it come out, but no one thought to bring it to the voters' attention?

The Destruction of the NJ Teaching Corps

Make no mistake - yesterday was the first phase. What we are witnessing is the beginning of a systematic destruction of NJ's teaching corps.

When A Nation At Risk was released in 1983, it created not only a movement toward standards; it called for the professionalization of the teaching corps. Specifically:
"2. Salaries for the teaching profession should be increased and should be professionally competitive, market-sensitive, and performance-based."
Yet here we are, more than a quarter of a century later, calling for wage freezes, pension cuts, and benefit hikes. On a profession that earns 2/3 of what comparable professionals make.

Tom Kean got elected in the wake of A Nation At Risk. Part of his solution to education woes was to raise starting salaries for teachers, even if it meant raising the income tax on the wealthy and the sales tax by a penny. This was coming after a huge recession - sound familiar?

Chris Christie, who inexplicably enjoyed Kean's support in the election, has eschewed Kean's legacy. He is going to slash salaries, slash benefits, and upend the pension. What will this do?

Most people enter teaching with a fairly clear understanding of the trade-offs involved. Yes, they'll make less money almost immediately. Yes, they'll make less money over their lifetimes. And, yes, if they happen to be the best at what they do, they will gain little if any financial reward for it, unlike almost any other profession.

They are willing to accept that because it's a job they grow to love, and because there are other compensations that make the sacrifice of a higher salary worthwhile. They can be the primary caregivers for their kids and still work.  They'll have good health care. They'll have a modest but reliable pension if they stay in the system. They'll have stability.

What Chris Christie has managed to do is take away almost every one of these compensations for having a low salary. Astonishingly, he's done it in a matter of months. The stability is gone. The health care is eroding. The pension is under segue. And without these offsets to a diminished salary, the primary care giver in a family is increasingly less likely to view the value of being off in the summers with his or her kids as ample reason to stay in the teaching profession.

I would not underestimate the importance of this shift. Combined with his increasingly personal attacks on teachers themselves (drug mules?!?), Christie has normalized the notion of teachers as non-professionals. The impact of this will be felt swiftly:

- Young people will not opt into the profession. Why would they? No compensation, low wages, onerous entrance requirements, and no respect: does that sound like a career path for people smart enough to pursue other options?

- The veterans will pull out as soon as they can. I don't know if this latest pension/health care stick will drive them out any faster, but they're not likely to hang around any longer than they have to.

- The mid-careers will be demoralized. You put in your time, got good evaluations, worked toward tenure, slowly inched up the pay scale, did your extra graduate hours - for what? To be told by every chowder-head who calls in on NJ 101.5 that you are the root of the problem? For a five-figure salary? If you can, you'll get out. If not, you'll still do your job, but with little joy and plenty of fear.

So the profession will lose - probably fairly quickly - its best members. The kids will suffer. We'll see a decline against the rest of the world. We'll publish a 30th anniversary "update" of A Nation at Risk. And then what?

And then what?

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm proud to be a teacher. And I'm voting yes.

I can't remember a public official ever going after a middle class group the way Christie has taken on teachers. Reagan going after PATCO? I was pretty young, but I don't remember this level of rancor.

It's disheartening. You're in there trying to do your job, and the man with the biggest microphone in NJ is sitting there, day after day, ripping into you for being a greedy bastard, bringing home maybe $2000 a paycheck of you've been on the job a good long while.

It's very tempting to throw up your hands and say WTF. But I won't - I can't.

I believe in what I'm doing. Lord knows I make a ton of mistakes every day, but this is the most satisfying job I've ever had. I can not tell you what it's like to see the light bulb go off above a kid's head; there's no feeling like it.

I've had people phone it in at every job I've ever had, and school's no different. But it's much, much harder to get away with that in a school, because the kids won't put up with it. They know when you're skating, and they will let YOU know.

I just want to keep doing what I do, and live a modest but comfortable middle-class existence while doing so. Is that wrong? To want a nice but simple house, in a nice town with good schools? To be able to get the mini-van fixed? To be able to save something to help send my kids to a good college? To have decent health care? To have enough money after retirement to live modestly but comfortably?

Does this make me greedy?

Times are tough - we all know this. We teachers really are willing to compromise - IF you treat us with respect. We will give up money to make our schools great places to continue to work, as long as we know we're going to get something back for our sacrifice.

So I'm voting yes. I'm not optimistic about tomorrow, but I'm going to make my stand. And I'll keep fighting for respect for the profession, and against those who would vilify me and my colleagues for cheap political points.

I'm proud to be a teacher. And I'm voting yes.

Friends in High Places

Good to know who you can count on:
 Stepping into the fight over Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed cuts to state school aid, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) this morning criticized the governor for urging New Jersey residents to vote against budgets for school districts where teachers have not accepted a wage freeze.
“I think it is not responsible to tell the electorate to just veto, to vote against school budgets on a single proposition, as to whether teachers give back money or not. I think it puts at risk the entire funding for education in our state,” Menendez said.
Gee, hope he doesn't get the teabaggers all angry at him...

Nothing Left To Say

I mean, how to you begin to negotiate with a man who says this about teachers:
"Scaring students in the classroom, scaring parents with the notes home in the bookbags, and the mandatory 'Project Democracy Homework' asking your parents about what they're going to do in the school board election, and reporting back to your teachers union representatives, using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom, is reprehensible."
He's really lost it. And then, right after I post about how the NJEA should not bring the guv's kids into this fight, he says:
Christie also said some teachers "have decided that even our families are not out of bounds." He said his "nieces and nephews who go to public school have been told by their teachers that the governor, your uncle, is an awful person." 
Does he want reporters to go check up on his sources for this? What kind of a guy drags his nieces and nephews into this fight?

This has always been political and it has always been personal. But what we're really starting to see is a guy who just doesn't have the temperament for high office. Remember:

It's the new math.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Don't go there - Part II

I obviously don't like Chris Christie as a governor. I also don't care for him as a man. I think he's a proven liar, a bully, and incompetent.

But let's not go here:
Gov. Chris Christie enrolls his four children in two private Catholic schools in Morris County, a personal choice that some say has public policy implications amid steep state aid cuts to public education. 
A spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, locked in a public feud with Christie over his call for a teacher pay freeze among other disputes, said it undermines the governor's repeated assertions of "shared sacrifices'' in regard to school layoffs and program reductions.  
"Kids are going to pay the price for this governor's policies, and his children won't,'' NJEA communications director Stephen K. Wollmer said.
 No. No, no, no.

Where the man sends his kids is none of your business, nor of mine. I don't like it when politicians use their own kids as political props, but I like it even less when people other than their parents drag them into a policy fight.

Let this one go. We've got enough ammo against this guy as it is. After all...
Its the "new" math.

Poll-ish Jokes

Ah, Rassmussen - favored polling unit of wing-nuts everywhere. They weigh in on the "freeze" (it's not a freeze - it's a cut!):
Sixty-five percent (65%) of New Jersey voters favor a one-year pay freeze on the salaries of administrators, teachers and school workers to reduce the state’s level of local school aid, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey.
 Always - ALWAYS - look at the questions before you accept any pollster's results:

2* Governor Christie’s proposed budget calls for approximately $820 million less in local school aid. To help make up this deficit in funding do you favor or oppose a one year pay freeze on administrators, teachers and school workers salaries?
65% Favor  28% Oppose 7% Not sure
The freeze was the ONLY option available! Imagine of the question were:

2* Governor Christie’s proposed budget calls for approximately $820 million less in local school aid. To help make up this deficit in funding do you favor or oppose a continuation of a tax that has already been in place on people making over $400,000?
How do you think the vote would have gone then?

More genius-level questions:

3* Are teachers’ unions more interested in the quality of education or in protecting their members’ jobs?
Uh, isn't job protection the entire point of a union?

4* Do public employee unions put a significant strain on New Jersey’s budget?
Oh, no, the people who work for the government hardly cost the government ANYTHING....

Honestly, if I had submitted work this sloppy for my master's thesis, the review panel would have kicked me off campus.

Don't Go There

It's not that this article didn't say something interesting - but it implies a rift between teachers and other public servants that I don't see:
Police officers are among New Jersey’s best-paid public employees — particularly in Bergen and Passaic counties — earning far more than schoolteachers, a focus of Governor Christie’s attempt to slash government spending.  
While teachers statewide have been asked for wage freezes and to contribute more to health benefits and pensions, similar demands have not been made of police unions.
Just publishing this article sets up a division that the NJEA has scrupulously avoided - as well they should. The last thing we should do is give into a divide-and-conquer strategy.

I think most cops would tell you that good schools are probably the best crime prevention tool we have. And teachers know you can't teach kids who live in a community without law and order.

We are all on the same team here. It's too bad we don't have a governor who sees that.

The Inevitable Death of Newspapers

It continues over at the Start-Ledger. All education all the time in the pages of the S-L today, starting with the front page:
On one side are critics like Jerry Cantrell, president of the New Jersey Taxpayers Association, who calls it ridiculous that districts cannot, “one year out of a decade, maintain the line on an increase in their budgets.”
On the other are educators like Roselle Park superintendent Patrick Spagnoletti, who says the governor’s slashing has “the ability to decimate a district.”
We then get three examples of district dealing with the cuts. The unsaid premise, however, is that this HAD to happen. Did it? Well, you'd think a mention of the tax cut for those making over $400K would enter into that question, but no mention of it made it into the article.

What we did get was some reporting that repeats a bunch of facts without stepping back to see if there are any contradictions to either Christie's or the NJEA's policies. For example:

As a result of a $4.1 million cut in state aid to North Brunswick, ...But at 4:30 a.m. Friday, the North Brunswick board and teachers union struck a tentative three-year agreement that includes a one-year wage freeze, saving the district an expected $1.7 million. 
Anybody see the problem here? The teachers agreed to the freeze, but it didn't even cover half of the cut in state aid. So how can the Guv say, "no teacher layoffs would be needed if educators across the state accepted a one-year wage freeze." Isn't this something that should be pointed out in this article? Shouldn't his office at least have to answer how they would propose East Brunswick make up the rest of the loss? Apparently not.

Also on the front page is Tom Moran. Not a bad article as far as the political process goes, but how can a  writer begin to address the politics of this without mentioning the education state aid cuts? Christie has made it a point to wage jihad against teachers; isn't that a big part of this?

The op-ed page is given over to education cuts. The Guv himself weighs in:
It is the reason why I am proposing to provide additional state aid to school districts that negotiate a salary freeze to the amount equivalent to both the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes that would have otherwise been paid on the foregone salary increase. The Social Security payroll tax is 6.2 percent of earnings up to $106,800 and the Medicare tax is 1.45 percent of earnings with no cap. This means that we are able to offer school districts additional state aid amounting to 7.65 percent of the savings achieved from a one-year salary freeze, or $76,500 on every $1 million saved. Statewide, if savings of $500 million were to be achieved through the one-year salary freeze, the additional school aid payments would total $38,250,000.
Aside from pointing out this is a pittance, has anyone - ANYONE - asked him how he plans to make up the loss of income tax revenue that comes from a wage freeze? Hello, anyone?

Has anyone asked him how it's a "freeze" if you don't get a raise AND you have to pay 1.5% more toward your healthcare? It's not a freeze - it's a cut!

Anyone bothered to ask him why teachers getting ready to retire should take a PERMANENT cut on their pensions?

This in particular killed me:
There is still time to reopen negotiations and have the teachers union finally agree to reasonable, shared sacrifice — a one year freeze on salaries and a small contribution to health insurance costs.
The election is on Tuesday. You didn't announce the cuts in state aid until less than two weeks before the budgets were due. There was no time for the district to reasonably negotiate with teachers, mostly due to your staff's inexperience and incompetence. Now you're calling for unions and districts to renegotiate before their budgets are even passed.

Seriously, dude, you're making this up as you go along, right?

Now I'm just scratching the surface here. But I'm sure the S-L has fact-checked this article. No? OK, how about a response from someone who addresses these issues?

Fat chance:
But there is an eerie parallel between the governor’s recommendation to vote no and the teacher who punishes the whole class because one student misbehaved. The governor goes further and wants to punish the class because he is mad at the teacher. Unfortunately, this irrational response to one of the many serious problems he will face as governor causes us to question his judgment on other issues as well.
Look, Jim O'Neill is one of the best school supers out there. The Chathams is consistently one of the best districts in the state. I don't want to bust on him for not being a fact-checker, because it's not his job. He has to make the case for his district in the way that best suits him. I find the above to be weak-kneed, but I'm not a super.

No, my real beef is with the S-L, because they give their space over to a man with the biggest microphone in the entire state and they don't think to look carefully at his arguments and see if the hold up.

But what to expect from a newspaper that publishes this:
As for public education, any money that’s restored must have strings attached so that it goes only to districts where teachers make concessions on salary and benefits.
Most teacher union locals have refused to make concessions that would help schools weather this crisis, and some boards have not even asked. To give these districts extra aid would reward their bad behavior.
The governor has nibbled at the edges of this approach by offering districts small rewards in return for salary concessions. In Montclair, for example, employees made concessions worth nearly $1 million. The district will get about $70,000 as a reward.
What if that reward were $1 million instead, or even $2 million? That would give teachers more incentive to offer concessions, since more jobs could be saved. And it would rally school boards and voters to press teachers over the issue.
With this approach, schools could reduce planned layoffs and property tax increases. If the unions make concessions, the money could be delivered in time for the next school year.
Um, if you offered a district $2 million dollars when their teachers took a $1 million dollar cut (it's not a freeze!), where would you get the money? Christie himself on the opposite page says he wants $500 million in savings. So you'd need a billion. But you only want half of the millionaires tax back, which would get you half a billion. Which you were going to also spend on seniors and health care.

But let's say that the money magically appears; you'll have twice the amount of the wage freeze to spend. So you'll hire more people, who you may not even need. And then, since the "freeze" (it's a cut, not a freeze!) is only a year long (hey, Christie said it, not me), those extra folks will get raises too. Or something...

Incoherent. Illogical. Silly. Your modern "liberal" media.