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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Clarity About School Votes

John Mooney at NJ Spotlight gets to the heart of the matter:
But for the likely vast majority of budgets that fall within the [2%] cap -- for example, a 1.5 percent increase -- there is growing sentiment among lawmakers that there should be no votes at all.
“Honestly, I think if you stay underneath the cap, you should be rewarded by not having a vote,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), after his chamber approved the cap last week.
I've emailed back and forth with John and a few others in the media on this, but he's the only reporter I've read who actually is addressing what is really a fundamental question. So kudos to him and NJ Spotlight for giving us some light instead of just heat for a change.

I hope the rest of the media - particularly the punditocracy - picks up on this. Trenton rushed this cap legislation through without fully thinking about the consequences. The role of the town governing body in all this is something that also has to be addressed.

But my sense is that Christie is not going to want to give up school budget elections. It was a very powerful political tool for him last time around, and he is a politician well before being a policy leader.

John's piece points out two other factors in all this:

  1. I'm not sure that people realize how much time a superintendent has to devote to budget elections. Every spring, they run around town making presentations and ginning up support, which they have to do very carefully because they can't actually endorse the budget. It's a huge waste of their time and it keeps them from what their real jobs should be: making sure their districts kids are get a thorough and efficient education. I have no doubt we could actually cut back administrative costs in many districts if we eliminated these budget votes.
  2. The School Boards Assn tried to get some clarity from the Christie camp about this - they couldn't. Because policy is not front and center with Christie - politics is. Teachers - and all public workers -  forget this at their peril.

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