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 18, 2013

Buyer's Remorse in Newark

The head of the Newark Teachers Union, Joe Del Grosso, is not very happy these days
Six months since Newark and its teachers union agreed to a historic new contract, the president of the NTU has publicly blasted Superintendent Cami Anderson over the district's finances. 
“I am writing to you about a serious problem that has persisted in the state-operated district of Newark,” wrote Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, in a stinging letter to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools on Friday. 
Since we came to an agreement on a contract for the teachers, aides, and clerks, we have experienced very serious and disturbing problems regarding the finances of Newark Public Schools,” the letter read. 
Calling for an external audit of the district’s books, Del Grosso cited plans for laying off about 120 administrators, 60 attendance officers, and possibly others, and what he called an air of secrecy in the district’s central offices.
Wow - where's all the money going?
The district posted a $995 million budget last week for next year, which represents a $30 million cut from this year‘s $1.03 billion. Part of the new budget is an additional $30 million slated for the city’s charter schools.
Adding to the discord, the local board rejected the budget outline earlier this month, a largely symbolic act for a board that has no legal power in the state-run system. Three seats on the advisory board are up for election this coming Tuesday.
In his ninth term as president of the NTU, Del Grosso faces his own internal conflict after approving a contract that was not universally endorsed by his members. The contract includes the state’s first large-scale use of performance bonuses for teachers. [emphasis mine]
And guess what - those merit pay bonuses will be given at the sole discretion of the very administration Del Grosso says is "dominated" by "secrecy." How confident is the leadership of the NTU that the merit pay bonuses are going to be awarded in a fair and transparent manner when they have such a big problem with the Anderson administration over the budget?

As I said before members voted on the contract: if Del Grosso and NTU believed this was the best deal they could get for their members (and I believe them when they say it was), they had an obligation to put it before their members. But part of any negotiation is knowing who you are dealing with: if you can't trust these people with the budget, how are you going to trust them with teacher pay? Too many details were left to be ironed out later...

Well, now it's later. And NJDOE is unveiling a teacher evaluation system so illogical, innumerate, deceptive, ill-informed, and frankly bizarre that the prospect of a fair merit pay system looks increasingly remote.

Joe Del Grosso is a hero in the American labor movement and has my respect. He is to be commended for taking on the Anderson administration, the NJDOE, and Chris Christie over these cuts to Newark's schools.

I just wish he had been a bit more leery of these people back when it counted...

NJ's new teacher evaluation system: Operation Hindenberg


NewarkTFA said...

With heroes like Joe, we don't need enemies.

ed notes online said...

Let's also give Randi credit for this deal. Fear where she treads. The Chicago people knew to keep her away. Joe Grasso joins the heads of Detroit, Hartford, and other cities on the Randi sell-out tour.