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, October 19, 2012

It's NOT Just Newark's Contract

Newark's teachers union has come to an agreement with the district on a contract. The contract still needs to be ratified by the members in a meeting on Monday, 10/29/12. The contract includes a merit pay program, funded by a combination of private and public monies.

Let's lay out a few facts:

- New Jersey has one of the highest-performing statewide school systems in the country. I would argue that we could make a good case for being the best performing state in the nation, given our demographics.

- Contrary to the warbling of know-nothings, New Jersey's urban school's are not failures. New Jersey made an investment years ago in school funding equity; that investment has most certainly paid off. The real problem is that this state has massive economic inequity; no school system can ever fix that.

Unfortunately, the Christie administration wants to undo the progress New Jersey's urban schools have made by short-changing them on funding. Part of their strategy is to convince the citizens of the state that the "achievement gap" is due to variations in teachers and schools. That's transparently stupid, but it goes a long way toward explaining why Christie is so hellbent to implement things like merit pay, which plays to his ideological predilections.

- New Jersey also has arguably the strongest unionized teacher work force in the nation. But the teachers in Newark are represented by an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); most NJ teachers are represented by NJEA, an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA).

In other words: the teachers in the largest district in the state are not represented by the largest teachers union in the state.

It's worth pointing out that when Chris Christie put together his Educator Effectiveness Task Force, he insulted teachers by including only one working teacher in the group. That teacher was not a member of NJEA; she is the president of one of New Jersey's few AFT locals.

Let me be clear: I have great respect for the woman who did serve, Donna Chiera, who has been the only adult in the room during the Perth Amboy fiasco. But it was very telling that no member of NJEA was brought in to work on overhauling the teacher evaluation system.

When Christie went on TV a while ago, bad-mouthing teachers and their unions, no representative of NJEA was invited to give a response. The only teachers union representative present was Randi Weingarten of AFT. Again, I have nothing but respect for Randi, who I think does a fine job representing teacher concerns in the media.

But let's be honest: Chris Christie has a different relationship with AFT than he does with NJEA. To all my friends and readers in AFT, understand this is not a criticism of you; it's simply a truth.

(Folks, I am on your team. That's why I'm going to be honest with you. Regular readers know the spirit in which I present these thoughts.)

- Newark has been under state control for 17 years. Governor Christie and NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf personally oversaw the appointment of Newark superintendent Cami Anderson. A year after her appointment, Cerf gave the district lower scores in its evaluation than it had before Anderson's arrival. This ensured that Newark will remain under state control for the foreseeable future.

- Under Cerf, the NJDOE has moved to assert its authority over New Jersey's schools though a series of policy changes that have not been approved by the Legislature. These include the establishment of Regional Achievement Centers (RACs), state-level approval of charter schools, and expansion of state-level standardized testing.

Cerf's NJDOE wants unprecedented powers over local schools. There's no denying this.

- Merit pay has been tried many times, but it has never worked. There is no compelling evidence that any merit pay system implemented in Newark will do anything to help raise student achievement. As I've said here many times: believing in merit pay is like believing in fairies.

- As Diane Ravitch points out, this entire deal is being driven by a big chunk of money, largely from private sources. That's great... until someone turns off the tap. Is there any reason to believe this isn't a one-shot deal?

Let's put this all together:

  • New Jersey has great public schools. And yes, contrary to the snake oil peddlers, that includes the urban schools.
  • New Jersey leads the nation in funding equity for schools (thank you, ELC!).
  • The Christie administration wants to undo that equity. They have turned the focus on to teacher quality because they don't want to acknowledge that their school funding policy is a disaster for New Jersey's children.
  • Newark's teachers union has a better relationship with the Christie administration than the union that represents most teachers in the state.
  • The Newark union has agreed to a merit pay system, even though there is no evidence this will help student achievement.
  • Newark is a state-controlled district, and will remain so for the future.
  • The Christie administration and the Cerf NJDOE have been asserting unprecedented authority over local districts.
  • Merit pay doesn't work, yet Christie has said many times he wants it.
  • This deal is driven by private money, which can dry up at any moment.
Given all this...

Why shouldn't any teacher in New Jersey think that the Christie administration sees this Newark contract as this as the beginning of merit pay for every teacher in the state? Using a one-time infusion of funds, couldn't this be simply a gateway to radically changing the way teachers are paid in the best school system in the nation?

So this is not just Newark's contract; this affects us all. Why would we mess around with a merit pay scheme that doesn't work when we already have the best schools in the nation?

If the Merit Pay Fairy takes up residence in Newark, isn't it just a matter of time before she tries to set up shop everywhere - even if the private money isn't there? Don't all teachers in Jersey have a stake in this - even if we won't get any Facebook money out of the deal?

First Newark (thanks, Zuck!). Then the Oranges. Then the Plainfields. Then South Jersey. Then...


Unknown said...

Isn't this exactly the same sort of agreement that CTU ratified?

reality-based educator said...

I think you speak too nicely of Randi Weingarten and the AFT.

The sell-out contracts we have seen so far - in New Haven, in Baltimore, in D.C - all came from AFT chapters and Weingarten had a hand in them.

In Baltimore, after teachers voted down the sell-out contract, Weingarten had a heavy hand in making sure it got voted in the second time around.

Make no mistake, Randi Weingarten is the Manchurian Education Reform Candidate within the union movement.

She is there to work reforms from the inside and make them seem palatable to teachers.

Having watched her closely as a member of the UFT, I can tell you she is a liar, a cheat, and a narcissist whose word means nothing because she has no core convictions or values.

Up in NYC, we used to hear her say she was opposed to merit pay.

Then she switched that and she started to say she was only in favor of merit pay for a whole school, not for individual teachers.

Now she's in favor of merit pay for individual teachers.

The next step is for her to declare salary steps and differentials aren't professional and performance pay is the only way teachers should be compensated.

She'll get there - if we let her.

It's like Chicago never happened with this woman, and I do hope the Newark teachers vote this contract down and punish the local leadership for negotiating it.

I am not hopeful of that - given how long they have been w/out a contract and how much the up-front bribe is.

But you're doing an excellent job of educating us about the dangers of this, Duke.

And keep noting, what happens when the Facebook money runs out?

What happened in D.C. when the Walmart money for merit pay was pulled out after Fenty/Rhee left?

Why are 80% of the districts in Michigan not in compliance with the merit pay provisions they're supposed to be paying to teachers?

Merit pay is a scam, his contract needs to be voting down and any time Randi Weingarten shows her face around local negotiations, teachers should watch out of their wallets, their job protections and their jobs.

Duke said...

anna, thanks.

James, there is not merit pay in the Chicago agreement that is the same as the Newark agreement (as I understand it):


RBE: I'm not going to dismiss your complaints - but I'm just not in the business of second-guessing labor leaders.

I have documented here my differences with teachers unions on tactics and strategies. But I'm not yet persuaded we're past the point of having a good faith argument about these things.

That said: union leadership needs to hear from folks like you. They need to know if members out there are not happy.

Ella Mentry said...

Randi Weingarten should not be making contracts for locals. That's lkike Duncan imposing his ridiculous agenda on the states.
The Christie Administration is pushing merit pay. The teachers now have to say to themselves, is it money that is my god or am I here in this classroom with a different purpose...to teach children, and to make sure charter schools, parent trigger laws, ALEC influuenced education policy, and privatization doesn't slip into public education and create a big obstacle to real education.
In RI, Weingarten said when Central Falls teachers in 2010 got fired that she would help them with money...she never did.
Her idea of P/R is to have none...and so in RI teachers are vilified in the media, in editorials and by the lawmakewrs who voted last year to take away our pension and colas....
RAndi Weingarten had no right to tell Obama minths ago, with out any contingencies on his Duncan Republican corporate education policies, that she would have her teachers support him for Presiden...I don't think so..
Why would I support a man whose educational policies are the same at Mitt Romney's and run by the Chicago mob crew including Rahm Emanuel and Duncan...
No way will RI teachers support a candidate who did not support them...He threw us under the bus.. Barack Obama applauded when RI Central Falls public school teachers were fired; his comment was "Throw them out since they are in a poor performing school.."which was not even true!
As a NJ teacher, I would not vote for this contract. I did not get into teaching to be wealthy or to give up my ideals. I wuld not accept this contract.
And I would want the real leadership of union people there doing the negotiations.
I would not be part of the sheeple that Christie and Weingarten are counting on to ratify this so called contract...
Remember when the money runs out, so does your salary/perks and everything they promised you and you will be doing all the new reform doctrines that we public school teachers are fighting against.
Don't compromise your principles for the Almighty Dollar. Remember why you got into teaching in the first place.

technokat said...

Reposted comment from Diane’s blog concerning:

“Announced yesterday, the tentative contract between the state-run Newark public school system and the 3,100-member Newark Teachers Union was hailed by such disparate players as Gov. Chris Christie and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.”
I am thoroughly convinced that Weingarten does not have the best interests of the schools in mind if she is going to endorse merit pay no matter how it is dressed up.

“Among its highlights: performance bonuses, peer reviews, and the first steps to end to the salary guides that all but guarantee a raise every year.”
There are good salary guides and there are bad salary guides. Just as there are good politicians and there are bad ones. Does the existence of bad ones mean we should eliminate them all?

“… it appears to do little about the excess teachers that continue to dog Newark’s billion-dollar budget.”
I heard about these bully teachers who “dog” the budget by hiring themselves, but I thought it was just a myth. Apparently, it’s happening in Newark right under our noses.

“And while the mostly private money for performance bonuses may exist now, will it be there in the future?”
Why is it there now? Is this how public programs are funded?

“Unlike broader merit pay agreements, they are directed to very specific standards. For instance: Teachers who are rated ‘highly effective’ can get a $5,000 bonus for each year they maintain that status.”
I wonder if the percentage of the cut that the evaluators get for giving out high marks is spelled out in the contract, too? Or perhaps this provision is part of “another” contract that has offers you can’t refuse.

Oh wait, there will be peer review.

“Peer review isn't new -- Rochester, NY, and Montgomery County, MD, are the most notable examples of peer systems. But the NTU has built in a number of checks and balances that will ensure that teachers not only have an eye on their peers but also a say in their evaluations.
This is accomplished by having teachers sitting on school panels and taking a direct part in the evaluations. Some will serve on a district council that will monitor the evaluations as they come in. Teachers can even bring in outside ‘validators’ to double-check their evaluations.”
Just like salary guides and politicians, peer review systems can be good or bad. My question is, which peer teachers will serve on the panel and who appoints them? Will they be voted into service by the teachers? Will they be compensated for their time and efforts? Will they be carefully selected (as per that “other” contract, maybe) by administrators or the board? Can they recuse themselves if they have personal relationships with those who they are evaluating? What about teachers with disparate teaching philosophies and styles—can they be impartial? What if there is a private and personal conflict between peers and one is on the panel to evaluate the other—how are these situations handled? If a teacher feels as if the evaluation was skewed, what recourse does that teacher have to protest? What is the liability of the peer evaluator in that process? So many questions and so little explanation offered in this piece. If I were one of the Newark AFT members, I would be asking these questions before I vote to ratify anything. (con't)

technokat said...


“Teachers who work in the highest-need schools, essentially those in the bottom quartile of the district in performance, can earn an extra $5,000 annually.”
Who do you have to pay off to get a job there?

“Teachers working in high-need subject areas like math, science, and special education can receive $2,500 annually.”
This stipulation is the most troubling. The insinuation here is that there is a hierarchy of subjects—therefore there is a hierarchy of professionals based on what they teach, not how well they teach or how they contribute to the education of their students. Teaching is a team effort—otherwise, there would be at-large tutors for each individual citizen and not school systems. Just because a related arts teacher teaches students for a fraction of the time that math and science teachers teach students, it does not mean that a) they are not fine teachers, b) they do not contribute to the overall education of the students, and c) the subjects are low-need.

“Bonuses…will also be part of a separate salary guide required of new teachers and those with only a bachelor’s degree, but they will be optional for as many as half of the district’s teachers, those now holding advanced degrees and able to stay on a more traditional salary scale if they choose. That standard salary scale will continue to pay them for experience and credentials.”
This is what is called “divide and conquer.” It is understandable that no one supports a system of compensation for status quo, but there are professional concerns to consider. A teacher who has earned tenure is put through a rigorous process to show skill and knowledge in situ. Experience feeds skill and knowledge and should not be held as an equal criterion—it should be isolated for its contribution TO skill and knowledge. Placing inexperienced or less-credentialed professionals on a different guide from others (and then attaching incentives to this guide) creates a two-tier system of professionals. Instead, incentives to gain more credentials ought to be included in the guide, as in most salary guides. If you work for an advanced degree in your teaching area, you should receive compensation for the time and effort put forth, and the skills and knowledge acquired with such an endeavor, but not on a different salary guide.

“Other than a few isolated instances, incentive pay is new to New Jersey and provides the first real test of the idea in a state that already pays its teachers as well as any in the country.”
This is a misleading statement. One cannot compare salaries of New Jersey with the rest of the country until one considers the high cost-of-living in New Jersey compared with the rest of the country.

“Further, this contract will limit pay raises to teachers who maintain an ‘effective’ rating or better. Those who receive the lowest evaluations will automatically be refused a raise. It will be the district’s option for those deemed in the second tier, or ‘partially effective.’ ”
There’s that tier system again, although who can forget about the possible “other” private contract between teachers and their evaluators. (con't)

technokat said...


“The Newark contract won't come cheap, and although hard numbers are yet to be released, both public and private dollars are essential to making it fly.”
Private money does not belong in the public schools when it comes to running the systems. Adding un-mandated enhancements is another thing.

“Even without performance bonuses, the average teacher could see raises exceeding the state average of 2 percent to 3 percent in each of the next three years.”
Do the corporations hired by the state and municipalities ever increase their prices? Yes? Why should teachers be expected to not be compensated for their experience and the cost-of-living? Every employee should—it is irresponsible and unfair to frame this argument as stated above. This is part of the cost of maintaining systems, and it goes on in EVERY public system, even the ones where portions are run by hired private corporations that are not publicly contracted (i.e. Haliburton, etc.) People act as if the expense that stems from the rising costs of running a system is shocking and uncalled-for.

“This will also be the first big ticket investment for Zuckerberg’s foundation, which in two years has doled out as much as $16 million, depending on who's doing the counting. But it has been a trickle so far, with foundation leaders saying the strategic planning has taken time.”
Trickle down has never worked in any economic system. Perhaps what the powers-that-be really mean is the “time” for the money to “do its job” is actually the “time” needed for the system to be revamped, restructured, and de-unionized. THEN once the system is completely unrecognizable, the “money” is put to the use to privatize it. Just a theory. If this is not the hidden agenda, why are teachers held to timely annual standards with the “failure of the meeting of such” a factor that may cause them to lose their jobs? Don’t they need “time” to show the merits of having them on staff? I thought that was what earning tenure was about, but apparently, that means nothing if we’re going to give bonuses to some and not others. I think teachers should have the same amount of time that the money gets to do its job, whatever that job may be.

“If this deal goes through, it would be committing as much as another $50 million to the contract alone, most notably the bonuses -- a full quarter of the $200 million to be raised.
The district will provide the other half of the $100 million at a time when it is struggling to make ends meet, especially with the surge of charter schools taking a bigger and bigger share of the dollars.”
Why does the district need to fund merit pay at all? Why not utilize that money for supporting the teachers they have now?

“ ‘We are confident we can find savings that can be deployed to this key effort,’ she said.”
Interesting how money can be found when it’s time to divide and conquer employees, but there is no money anywhere when the “big, bad teachers” are negotiating contracts. (con't--with thanks for letting me post this enormous commentary)

ed notes online said...

I echo RBE comments on Randi Weingarten and the AFT. You would have had to live with over a decade of givebacks to ed deform here in NYC to understand fully. By compromising union opposition to the march of the corporate reformers Randi has been of great use to them, which explains why Christie wanted her at the table. And why people like Steve Brill and Steve Barr love her. The Chicago teachers made absolutely sure to keep her as far away from negotiations as possible.

RBE calls her a Manchurian candidate. He is being kind. I prefer Vichy.

technokat said...


“As copies of the contract are leaked, all eyes will be on the salary guides. They lay out how teachers are compensated at different parts of their careers, and have been notoriously uneven -- especially for new teachers.”
So have our policy makers been notoriously uneven, but where’s the public outcry to fix THAT system?

“They also said there will be special incentives for new teachers as well, with one-time bonuses of up to $20,000 for gaining an advanced degree, a sure help in paying off student loans.”
Is there a stipulation that the teachers getting advanced degrees and whopping bonuses are going to stay with the district long enough for the district to see the fruits of these efforts? If that astronomical amount is going to be given to each teacher going back to school (a great idea that has already been implemented in smaller degrees), there ought to be very strict rules regarding the service back to the district. For that amount, it might be fair to say that 5 years of service after the degree is earned is fair. If a teacher must leave the district, that money should be returned in part. This should be stipulated in the contract. Also, who gets first dibs on the money? If every teacher wanted to do this, the district would never be able to afford it no matter how many Zuckerberg’s contribute. Now you have to have a plan stipulating who gets the opportunities and in what order.

“Still, the extent of the performance bonuses beyond this contract remains an open question. The drying up of funds has led to the demise of pay-for-performance plans in other states, and both Anderson and Del Grosso said that will be determined in the years ahead.
‘Let’s pray there is another Zuckerberg out there for the next contract,’ Del Grosso said.”
I’m thinking, let’s not. Zuckerberg’s money, like any private interests’ money, comes with a price. Besides “divide and conquer,” we have yet to hear what else it will be.

reality-based educator said...


The UFT leadership doesn't care what its members think.

I mean, they don't care at all.

Back in '08 when they came around to sell a contract extension to the odious '05 contract, Mulgrew came to my school and shouted down anybody who tried to bring up disagreements and/or complaints about the contract to him. At the delegate assemblies, both Weingarten and Mulgrew have made very conscious efforts to shut down any opposition. The latest shut down came just last week when they kept anybody opposed to the Obama endorsement from speaking.

They don't want to hear from people who disagree. They want undying fealty from their serfs.

Norm's blog is the best at documenting the corruption and authoritarianism at the UFT/AFT. But NYC Educator can give you some perspective from the POV of a chapter leader about how much the UFT/AFT leadership want to hear from members or chapter leaders about their concerns.

Beware Weingarten, Duke - she serves her own interests only. Her history in NYC and her history at the AFT in negotiating sell-out contracts in New Haven, Baltimore and D.C. prove that.

It's not a mistake that she's working with Christie to bring merit pay to Jersey through an AFT affiliate.

This is what she has done everywhere else she has been.

And yes, Norm is right - CTU kept her as far away from the negotiations as possible because they KNEW Weingarten would try and sabotage them.