Every year I read in the NJEA magazine about schools that are receiving grants for innovative educational initatives. Have you ever thought about applying? Leslie Dell has offered to help any BTA member that is interested in applying for the NJEA Frederick L. Hipp grant. Applications are due by March 1st, 2011 and grants range from $500-$10,000. Lets see if Blairstown can earn a part of this grant money!
Legislative Update--February 8, 2011: PENSION REFORM
DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS HAVE NOW INTRODUCED PENSION REFORM BILLS
It’s official. Legislators in both parties have officially introduced pension reform legislation. Here is what we know:
As this debate heats up NJEA is working to ensure that:
The Democrat’s bill has been addressed in earlier updates but to review:
The bill #: S-2696. Makes various changes to PERS, TPAF, PFRS, SPRS, JRS including to board membership, control of investments, adjustments to member contribution, adjustments to benefits, and benefit factor for TPAF and PERS.
The sponsor: Senate President Steve Sweeney. Assembly Speaker Oliver is expected to introduce the Assembly version soon.
What it says: Text officially became available last night. You can read the bill at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/S3000/2696_I1.HTM
What we know : Here is a brief outline:
· The proposal is intended to give public employee unions more say in administering the pension systems.
· It repeals n/55 on a prospective basis unless participants pay for the added benefit,
· It repeals cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for any member of a state pension system with less than five years of service credit,
· Allows members with more than five years of service credit to keep the COLA if they contribute more to the retirement system.
· It attempts to provide stronger legal language to support the right of members of the pension systems to have a system that is funded. (in other words…to try tocompel state to make its payments).
· Right now current retirees would not be affected.
NJEA is at the table: NJEA has had several meetings with other public sector unions and the Senate staff members drafting the bill. NJEA and its coalition partners continue to have concerns about the bill and will continue to work closely with the sponsors on amendments.
The Republican bill was just introduced and text for it is not yet publicly available. Both the Assembly and Senate versions have been assigned numbers.
The bill #: A-3796 / S-2705 Makes changes to retirement benefits for members of the State- administered retirement systems and eliminates future COLAs.
The sponsors: Assemblymen O’Scanlon and Chiusano. Senator Pennachio.
What it says: No text is available. NJEA will try to secure a copy today from the sponsors. When it becomes available on line you can find it at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp.
What we know: Only what is reported in the press:
NJEA has not been at the table: The Republicans have neither shared their proposal with us nor invited our input thus far.
Here is what the Republicans said when they released the bill:
With New Jersey's public employee pension program underfunded by $54 billion and in desperate need of reform, Assemblymen Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth and Mercer, and Gary Chiusano, R-Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon, have introduced legislation that provides substantive improvements to the system that protects current and future retirees without placing an additional burden on property taxpayers in order to keep the plan solvent.
Report: NJ pension crisis only to get worse
Christie: Cut benefits to fix pension fund
N.J. Assembly, Senate Republicans propose pension reform bills
STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFO AS IT DEVELOPS!
Jan. 7, 2011
If you haven’t yet seen today’s column in the Bergen Record by Alfred Doblin, it’s a must-read.
In fact, Doblin’s piece – which roasts Governor Christie for his attacks on NJEA, its members, former Commissioner Bret Schundler, local superintendents, county superintendents, and, by implication, every student in New Jersey – is the latest note in a rising chorus of critical news coverage of the governor. He didn’t exactly cover himself with glory in his post-blizzard news conference, either, in which he blamed everyone but his administration – including the Monmouth County mayors who diverted plows from local streets to clear the state roads that his administration failed to clear – for the mess. (That’s been a trait that more reporters are noticing: it’s never Christie’s fault; recall how he blamed President Obama, “Washington bureaucrats,” and other parties for his administration’s failed “Race to the Top” application last year, when in fact it was his administration that botched the application.)
News coverage of Christie’s attacks on NJEA members’ pensions, benefits, and tenure rights will be picking up in the days and weeks to come, and we will be weighing in on all fronts. I’ll try to share things with you as much as possible, without overloading your inboxes.
Also coming soon: a detailed list of talking points/debate points on the entire issue of using student test scores to evaluate, compensate, and terminate teachers. As you know, Christie has a hand-picked nine-member task force on evaluation working in sworn secrecy to develop a new evaluation system. What’s not a secret is that they’ve already been told to come up with a system that will require improvements in student test scores to comprise “at least 50 percent” of teacher evaluations. That task force’s recommendations are due on March 1, so it’s imperative that we enter the public debate – with parents, opinion leaders, the media, and politicians – to point out the folly of that approach. The information you’ll be receiving should enable you to discuss this issue with credibility in any forum, including letters to the editor to daily and weekly papers.
Doblin: Students are collateral damage in
Friday, January 7, 2011
By ALFRED P. DOBLIN
RECORD EDITORIAL COLUMNIST
IT’S NOT a good time to be in education. Governor Christie declared war on the New Jersey
Education Association last year. In Christie’s English primer, Keshishian — as in NJEA
President Barbara Keshishian — is a four-letter word.
The assault on education was not restricted solely to the most powerful state teachers’ union. It’s
been like watching a very long professional hockey game. Christie first face-washed his
commissioner of education, Bret Schundler, over a compromise with the NJEA. Then the
governor went for a full body check after the state lost federal Race to the Top education funding
over a bungled application. Schundler was out of the game.
After unions and Schundler took hits, the governor aimed his sights at district superintendents.
Woe unto the superintendent who was paid more than the governor. While a state university
like Rutgers is free to spend nearly $2 million on a football coach and assume $100 million in
debt to upgrade its football stadium to ensure that the $2 million coach doesn’t leave, school
districts have to be personally micromanaged by the governor.
School budgets and superintendent contracts are currently micro-managed by state-appointed
executive county superintendents. As a parting New Year’s gift, seven of these county
superintendents read last week by e-mail, no less, that “Your last work day is today.”
Their three-year contracts expired at the end of the year — last Friday. These superintendents,
whether they represented the previous Corzine administration’s priorities rather than Christie’s,
deserved to know months in advance whether their jobs would continue. Clearly, civility isn’t
one of the things being reformed now or soon in New Jersey.
Personally, I would do away with much, if not all, of county government. Home rule is so
entrenched in the culture of New Jersey that it is impossible to eliminate local municipalities.
But there is little lasting love for county government from anyone other than the local political
power brokers who control much of state government and ensure that their sycophants have
appointed and/or elected offices.
The governor is not planning to dismantle county government. He is intent on creating chaos in
public schools. He has demoralized teachers, castigated the NJEA, publicly humiliated his nowformer
education commissioner and selectively targeted district superintendents’ salaries, while
leaving other higher-paid state employees in the clear.
Now he has undermined the worth of county superintendents, leaving a third of the state’s
counties without one.
Taking a page from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Christie also wants to relax rules for
district superintendent qualifications. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree, managerial experience
and no criminal record could be hired. While that last requirement eliminates some former
public officials, the bar is about as low as it can go. To suggest that a good manager with no
education background is the right person to set educational priorities for an entire school
district is absurd.
Districts need strong business managers and that is the place for motivated private-sector
individuals with keen managerial experience. There may be better ways of running physical
plants, fixing boilers and replacing roofs. But the real business of schools is educating children.
Smart corporate franchises require their top managers to spend time inside their stores and
restaurants before promoting them up. If it makes sense for selling hamburgers, it damn-well
makes sense for teaching children.
It is not that the current system is working perfectly. It is not. But it is not broken on a statewide
level, either. And unlike a manufacturing plant that can be closed while it is being retooled,
public schools must remain open during the process.
Students are the casualties of Christie’s war. And it does not go unnoticed that the governor
chooses to keep his own children out of the war zone. Parents who cannot afford private schools
or Christmas vacations to Walt Disney World have little choice but to watch political weapons of
mass destruction fall on their local districts while they listen to platitudes about how it will get
better at some future date. None of that does a whit of good for children caught in the crossfire.
All New Jersey counties need superintendents as school budgets are being developed. Three
months from now is too late in the process. Unless the governor’s poorly timed Disney vacation
was a job-recruitment trip, these districts will be leaderless for awhile. But then again, given the
governor’s new standards for school leaders, he may have found seven qualified little managers
in the Magic Kingdom: Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey and Doc. They won’t
demand salaries higher than Christie’s either; they work for a song.
Alfred P. Doblin is the editorial page editor of The Record. Contact him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow AlfredPDoblin on Twitter.
FROM:Barbara Keshishian, NJEA President
You may have seen recent news reports regarding New Jersey’s public employee pension system. Specifically, Senate President Steve Sweeney is expected to make an announcement tomorrow regarding his plans for a pension system overhaul, while Gov. Christie is expected to roll out yet another set of pension proposals in his State of the State address on Tuesday. Some media outlets have been speculating about what the proposals will entail, and NJEA has been in discussions with legislators and others regarding what to expect from both Sweeney and Christie.
More importantly, we have been carefully studying the pension system ourselves for many months. We have met with actuaries in order to understand the magnitude of the issues the system faces. We have also asked them to study what steps are necessary to ensure the long-term health of the system and the future security of our members who are in the pension system. We have met with attorneys to make sure we know what our members’ legal rights are with regard to their pensions and any proposed changes to the system.
We have also met with legislators and discussed our concerns about the pension system. We have not come to any agreements with legislators or final conclusions about the best way to resolve the problems caused by both the economy and the state’s irresponsible funding practices. However, we will continue to pursue meetings with legislators in order to be part of the discussion and to advocate for solutions that protect both the stability of the pension system and your long-term security. We believe those solutions should come only from cooperation and mutual effort, and should not be simply imposed.
We understand that pension security is a top priority for our members. That is why it is – and will always remain – a top priority for NJEA. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect the pension fund and the security you are counting on for your retirement. We know that there are no easy solutions for fixing a system that has been so badly neglected by the state and so severely battered by the economy. We also believe that the “shared sacrifice” we hear about so often must really be shared: the state must step up and take responsibility for its pension obligations. The state’s failure to make any contribution for 13 of the last 17 years is the primary reason we face this crisis, and responsible funding must be the foundation of any real reform.
As we continue this effort, we need your help. Please contact your legislators and ask them to tell their leaders to meet with NJEA leaders to discuss the issue of pensions. Our 200,000 members must have a place at the table, and your voice must be heard and respected as we all grapple with this significant challenge.
The next few weeks and months should be very busy ones on the pension front. We will keep you informed of developments as they occur, and we will fight tirelessly to protect your best interests as we work for real, sustainable and lasting solutions to the problems our pension system faces.
Nov. 9, 2010
Last Friday evening, the Newark Star-Ledger reported comments that Gov. Christie made to a group of students while attending a Boys and Girls Club event in Trenton.
Even by this governor’s standards, the comments marked a new low, and today NJEA President Barbara Keshishian issued a statement to all media and opinion leaders labeling his comments “inappropriate and out of control.” Not only did Christie tell students that it was the fault of the “greedy teachers union” that they did not have adequate classroom supplies, but he also told them that “if the union cared more about all of you learning, they’d be in school” instead of attending the NJEA Convention, which he described as “a party.”
Christie is on a roll. Last week, an email over the name of his acting commissioner of education, Rochelle Hendricks, was sent to President Keshishian to inform her that Hendricks would not be attending the “Meet the Commissioner” session at the Convention. The email was hostile and filled with misinformation about NJEA members’ commitment to education reform. NJEA immediately blasted the administration, and the press descended on Atlantic City, where they not only interviewed Barbara and other NJEA spokespersons, but also got a first-hand look at the Convention. They obviously liked what they saw, because the coverage was uniformly positive. Several newspaper editorials followed, castigating the administration for snubbing the state’s educators.
Then, on Friday, Christie made his comments to the students in Trenton. NJEA members are justifiably outraged, and the governor must once again explain his inappropriate words and actions. When you click through to the statement, you will see two additional links: one to a story pointing out that teachers contribute heavily toward school supplies, and one to a video clip with the governor’s offensive comments about the Convention.
Please share this with your members.
Attached is a worksheet that will show the impact of a portion of the Governor’s “Tool Kit” on our members take home pay.
To use the worksheet, members need only to enter their current annual salary and insurance costs into the appropriate cells, which are clearly marked.
Our first Rep Council meeting went very well. By now you have read the notes Mark sent out addressing some of the issues that were brought up during this forum. If you are not sure who your Rep Council person is, check out the attachment below. Two additional staff members were added so that everyone is represented. We plan to meet once a month to discuss items that you feel need to be brought to the attention of the administration. Keep your ideas coming.
October 21, 2010
We’ve heard from many of you – and from many of your members – that you could really use a set of talking points around all the key educational and economic issues that are part of the ongoing debate in New Jersey. Many members, for example, have told us: “I want to know what to tell [neighbors/friends/relatives] when they say something inaccurate about school funding, our pensions and benefits, or all these ‘reforms’ that are being discussed.”
So, here it is: It’s called “Myth vs. Reality” – an 8-page, easy-to-navigate collection of 30 common misconceptions about public education, and the facts that set the record straight.
Please feel free to share this immediately with your members, and put copies in all building offices and worksite areas.
This document will also be available at njea.org.
Remember: Information is power!