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

Friday, February 4, 2011

Yet Another Star-Ledger Editorial Disaster

What a train wreck:
With all the hubbub over capping pay increases for cops and firefighters, the idea of putting the brakes on teacher salaries has somehow faded from the discussion.
Time to bring it back. Because the 2 percent cap on property tax increases is now a matter of law. If salaries are not contained as well, schools will have to lay off more and more teachers to fit their budgets within the tax cap.
And remember, schools can’t keep the best teachers. They have to fire the young ones, no matter how promising, thanks to archaic seniority rules. That will magnify the damage to kids in the classroom, in poor districts and rich ones.
Would someone in the media please present one solitary piece of evidence that there are significant numbers of "bad" senior teachers keeping "good" new teachers from teaching?

And how many of these "good" new teachers would have become teachers in the first place had they known that they will be fired as soon as they start making more money than the "good" new young teachers who will replace them when they become "bad" old teachers?
Gov. Chris Christie wants to change all this. But so far, he hasn’t managed to break the stranglehold that the teachers union has over the Democratic Legislature. He wins the battle on YouTube every time, but the New Jersey Education Association is still winning in the Statehouse.
What has Chris Christie ever done to deserve the assumption of good faith that is automatically denied to the NJEA?
Now, the Legislature is considering Plan B. It would allow school boards to impose final settlements on teachers once the negotiations have passed through an obstacle course of mediation attempts.
School boards had this power until 2003, when the rules changed after a teachers strike in Middletown. The hope was that this would bring labor peace, which it did. 
But at a price. Soon afterward, teacher salaries began to rise faster.
And what had happened to teacher salaries before then? Does the S-L bother to stop and think about that? Of course not:
Meanwhile, a look at data from several decades shows that while average teacher pay is higher than the average of all workers salaries -- everyone from landscapers to surgeons, for example -- it grew at a slower rate than all workers' pay grew.
Teachers average pay rose nearly 150 percent between 1985 and 2008.
The average wage for all workers in the state in 1985 was $21,107, according to state Department of Labor and Workforce Development data. The average pay for all workers in 2008, the last year currently available, was $55,282, an increase of 162 percent.
In other words: before the school boards lost the power to impose "last, best offer" - and even afterward - teacher pay rose LESS slowly than average pay. Oops - that's the sort of fact the S-L regularly leaves out.
Teachers argue they are not overpaid, given the average salary of $63,000. And that’s true, especially given their level of education. This is not about bashing teachers. It is a simple matter of what property taxpayers can afford today.
"Property" taxpayers.  Could we maybe talk about changing the "property" part - especially since, as the S-L admits - teachers aren't overpaid?
New Jersey teachers are among the best paid in the nation. Many of them earn more during their summers off. And their benefits are extraordinarily generous, across the board. Limiting salary increases is not unreasonable.
So now we've got to include part-time summer work in teacher pay; hey, great way to up the prestige of the job! And "extraordinarily" generous? Even though the benefit gap is 5%, not enough to make up for the pay gap?
Teachers also argue that giving this power to school boards renders collective bargaining meaningless. But they have abandoned collective bargaining when it suits their interest, as when they helped convince the Legislature to grant them a 9 percent pension hike a decade ago.
So, if we buy into this nonsense, can we keep the 9%?

And whether you bargain with the state or the districts, bargaining as a labor unit is still collective bargaining.
It is true that giving school boards this power could result in more teacher strikes. Our hope is that school boards use this power with restraint, only after bargaining in good faith.
Oh, yes, no reason for teachers to believe otherwise!
But the teachers union, by rejecting the call for a pay freeze and clinging hard to sclerotic work rules that block needed reform, has shown its colors. Time to tip the balance of power and give school boards the power to push back.
What a crock. Contracts settled this year have increases down to an average of 1.6%.  All districts that didn't settle, and many others besides, took pay freezes PLUS a mandatory contribution on their health care - that's a cut, S-L.

This sort of lazy writing continues to be the primary reason newspapers are dying.


czarejs said...

I love the part about how all we have to do is hope school boards use their power wisely....lol yeah right that'll happen.

Anonymous said...

Our school board is currently trying to dupe the townspeople. They're telling the local paper that they're offering us a $1,000/yr raise and that we're rejecting it (painting a picture that we're greedy prima-donnas). They're not giving the full story. That raise is a stipend, only for the first year (which isn't really a full 1K raise because of losing over a thousand this year for paying into our medical plan. Plus, our copays will double, office visit copays will triple, and the raise only happens in year one of the contract, years 2 and 3 go back to a pay freeze at our current step with losses to medical. I hate being a teacher right now...Oh, by the way, I'm writing this blog as a break while grading and uploading lesson plans online, on my own computer (in a scurried attempt to see SOME of the SuperBowl...I am NOT overpaid).