Under the new system, 190 of the best teachers have received merit pay bonuses so far, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $12,500. The greater bonuses went to those teaching hard-to-staff subjects, or in the lowest-performing schools. When you add up these performance bonuses, other stipends and one-time payments, Newark teachers received more than $50 million in additional compensation under the new contract. [emphasis mine]Wrong. As I wrote yesterday, $20 million of that $50 million in "additional compensation" was set aside for merit pay bonuses over the three-year life of the contract. Teachers reasonably expected that over $6 million would have been disbursed last year, but only $1.3 million was awarded. Further, the district withheld an unspecified but undoubtedly substantial amount of pay for those teachers deemed "partially ineffective" or "ineffective" - where is that money? It's certainly not in the pockets of NPS teachers.
So, no, Star-Ledger: Newark teachers did not receive more than $50 million under the contract. We have no idea what the final amount will be; initial indications, however, are that it will be far less than what Newark's teachers were led to believe.
Throwing up red herrings about the terms and execution of this contract, whether out of simple misunderstanding or pure combativeness, isn’t good for Newark teachers. Recall that they voted to approve these reforms by a 62 percent majority.Wrong - or, at least, incomplete. As your own paper reported, only 2,800 of the 4,700 members of the NTU voted on the contract. As I reported at the time, this stood in stark contrast to the contract vote in Chicago:
Saying Newark's teachers approved the reforms by "a 62 percent majority" is incomplete at best, and deceptive at worst. Teachers had plenty of misgivings about the contract then; now, their worst fears are being realized.
Rather than fall back to their default, knee-jerk, poorly-conceived, union-bashing positions, the Star-Ledger should be standing with me and calling for a comprehensive program analysis of the Newark merit pay program.
No teacher's union in New Jersey, or anywhere else in the country, should accept any agreement containing merit pay unless and until the Newark district releases as much data as possible about the state-run program.
But don't hold your breath waiting for the S-L editorial board to publish this reasonable demand; they'd rather just ignore even the most basic facts about education in New Jersey and the rest of the country. It's much easier, after all, to keep your head buried in the sand; that sunlight can be awfully blinding.
Star-Ledger Editorial Board
ADDING: Kelly from the comments:
Once again, you've got it right Jazz! And by the way, most of those stipends and "one time payments" included retro pay that was due to teachers...that had nothing to do with performance bonuses. The retro that was awarded was a fraction of what was owed. Don't get me wrong, I know teachers in every district endured pay freezes etc., but they should all be aware that what the media (SL) is writing about our contract is just not true. We got the short end of the stick and need to warn all the other districts about what is inevitably coming their way!That is a really good point and well worth restating: much of that $50 million in "additional compensation" was retroactive pay due to Newark's teachers, who had been working without a contract for over two years.
We live in a time where newspaper editorial boards - long ago, considered the voice of the people - now think it's "additional compensation" when a teacher gets a raise smaller than the one she would have received under her old contract.
The truth is the Newark teachers gave up a lot to settle, and now they're getting screwed. And, to add insult to injury, they're being told by the largest paper in the state that they have to suck it up and quit complaining, even as the promises that were made to them are being broken.
ADDING MORE: One more thing:
I know a lot of people are angry at the leadership of NTU over all this. I'm all for accountability and reasoned debate within unions. I think the NEWCaucus folks are good for the NTU. I think we need a continuing dialog about teachers union tactics and strategies. You all know I adore Karen Lewis, the country's most dynamic labor leader. I've supported the MORE folks in New York and will continue to do so.
Unions are, unlike corporations, democratic institutions. Disagreement and debate make us stronger. Perhaps the thing I admire most about Randi Weingarten is that she's not afraid to answer her critics within the ranks of the AFT's membership (can you imagine Exxon's Rex Tillerson doing the same?). Weingarten knows she is answerable to the teachers who depend on her; she knows she will always have critics, and at least some of them will have legitimate differences with her. Let the conversations continue...
But let's not lose sight of who our real adversaries are. No matter what you think about Joe Del Grosso, he's not the guy who is holding back the merit pay teachers reasonably expected was coming their way - that particular sin can be attributed to Cami Anderson and the Christie Administration. They are the ultimate problem for Newark's teachers.
One other thing: were I Joe Del Grosso, I wouldn't have publicly supported the contract. But if I genuinely thought this contract was the best I could get, I still would have put it up for a vote. Again: unions are democratic institutions. People should have a say in how their union negotiates: there was nothing wrong with giving Newark's teachers that say.
What bothers me more is this:
More NTU members didn't vote one way or another for the contract than supported it. That shows a level of disengagement with the collective bargaining process that undermines the strength of the union. It is, frankly, unacceptable.
As Bob Braun wrote the other day, rallies and marches are a good first step - but they aren't going to be enough to revive the union movement in this country:
That’s all great. And I’m willing to concede the point made by Michael Dixon, an NTU vice president, who said this was a “first step” toward greater mass action.
But mass action in the streets has to be linked to concrete legislative action—supporting full funding of Newark schools, putting limits on the expansion of charter and voucher schools, ending the assault on the rights of unionized teachers and other school employees, protecting pensions and benefits. The courts have to be used to vindicate the rights of children. At yesterday’s rally, state Sen. Ronald Rice said he believed the best minds in education law in the state should come together to plan a federal court effort to return Newark to local control.
And educators and parents in the suburbs have to face this–this is more than Newark’s fight. The foundation plutocrats—Zuckerberg, the Gates, Broad, the rest of them—are infiltrating suburban districts as well. Look at what is happening in Montclair and Highland Park.
Get it straight: There are people, powerful people, who believe public education should be privatized. Who believe teachers should not belong to unions. Who want to cut pensions, benefits, and salaries for all public employees. A handful of people chanting in the streets won’t defeat them.
Public education is endangered everywhere. And Del Grosso is right—you don’t have a free country without free, public education. [emphasis mine]That is exactly right. Again: get involved with your union. Hold your leaders accountable. Tell them what you think. If they're like Weingarten, they'll listen; if they don't, vote them out.
But let's not point fingers at each other when the real adversaries are those who would love nothing more than to watch us rip each other to shreds. That way lies madness.