Christie v. NJEA/State Legislature

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Ever wonder whether a Venn diagram of NJEA, the Senate Education Committee, and the Assembly Education Committee would display even the smallest lack of overlap? A piece in Educationweek suggests not. That intersection of principles was a cozy arrangement for Governor Corzine, who espoused an educational platform in lockstep with NJEA and NJEA-beholden legislators: lip service to charter school expansion, opposition to vouchers for poor urban students, and increased spending. It’s not nearly as copacetic with a governor like Christie who advocates an educational platform at odds with the power brokers.

From the Edweek piece: Senator Shirley Turner, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, prognosticates, “Before it’s all over, he’s [Christie’s] going to wish he had asked for a recount.” Joseph Cryan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee predicts a “legislative dead end for many of Mr. Christie’s education ideas, because of ‘philosophical differences ‘with the Democratic-controlled legislature or budgetary realities.” NJEA President Barbara Keshishian warns that “her union would oppose any attempts to tighten the cap on school district budget growth, and was “disappointed” in Mr. Christie’s opposition to the planned expansion of the state’s preschool program.”

In the meantime, the Legislature is well into duck-hunting season as it tries to push through NJEA-backed bills. One example: on Monday Turner’s committee will debate Bill S-2850, which would disallow school district from subcontracting out food service workers. New Jersey School Boards Association has a press release out explaining how passage of the bill will drive up school costs, specifically $14.9 million in savings accrued through subcontracting cafeteria operations.

NJSBA also notes that N.J.’s accountability regulations require all districts to operate “self-sufficient food services operation;” subsidizing cafeterias is a violation. But if all food service workers are paid union-scale, no district will be able to do so without violating the regulations. But never mind: from NJEA’s Legislative Program:

NJEA is proposing legislation that requires that subcontractors hire existing school employees and pay them the same level of salary and benefits that they were receiving before they were subcontracted. NJEA believes this is a fundamental fairness right for all school employees who may lose their jobs.”

In other words, districts trying to save money without cutting into class size or instructional services can’t look at non-instructional personnel. And, due to accountability regulations and financial strictures, kids will either pay sky-high prices for cafeteria food or instruction will take a hit. Talk about “fundamental fairness.” We’ll watch closely on Monday to see if the Senate Education Committee backs legislation that forces districts to violate recently-mandated efficiency regulations, hurts families by jacking up lunch prices, and causes staff cuts in the classroom instead of in the lunchroom.

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