Speaking of Unsustainable School Costs,

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In The Lobby muses today on New Jersey’s “Gordian knot,” our property tax crisis:

So far this year, teacher contracts are averaging increases of more than 4%. This at a time when the average annual pay raise is about 2%, and experts are expecting it to be even lower than that next year.

How can taxpayers keep up if their teachers are getting raises that are 100% bigger than theirs?

No wonder people are fleeing the state in droves.

Well, it’s not really the fault of the teachers, though they may be the beneficiaries. What can you expect when you have 600 separate school boards negotiating with 600 separate local units of the NJEA? Or when you have a weak-kneed Legislature mandating a non-binding arbitration process that favors the status quo?

When a school board decides to resist annual 4+% annual raises, a state-appointed mediator comes in and renders a non-binding decision based on settlements within the county. If either the board or the local bargaining unit rejects the decision, it goes to another state-appointed mediator/fact-finder/super conciliator who renders another non-binding decision based on settlements within the county. If the process wasn’t tautological enough, word has it that the mediators feel compelled to maintain current increases because if their decisions direct otherwise they’ll lose their livelihoods.

How do we extract ourselves from the endless loop? County-wide negotations might be one way to go. Or let’s dream on: annual raises tied to COLA, with possible bumps for meritorious performance. It would put us right in line with Obama’s Race To The Top criteria, which might help a bit with our property taxes too.

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