Sunday Leftovers

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The Herald News recommends that Gov. Christie expand his focus:

The governor needs to replace “NJEA” in his vocabulary with “home rule.” While it is important that he continue to keep the powerful teachers union’s feet to the fire, he cannot tread quietly around police, public works departments or public utilities. There are too many patronage jobs that exist solely to give politically connected people health benefits and pensions.

Good overview on school budget failure sequellae from Philadelphia Inquirer.

Senator Loretta Weinberg explains to The Record that “we simply have too many school districts and too many layers of government.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan decries Gov. Christie’s attitude: “”Gov. Christie seems content to view public employees as his personal whipping boy — unaware or willfully ignoring the fact that his actions continue to wage war on New Jersey’s middle class and threaten the retirement planning of tens of thousands of hard-working residents.”

Assembly Deputy Speaker John F. McKeon says that “the Governor was exploiting the people’s pain to advance his personal vendetta with the New Jersey Education Association.”

The Record calculates that teacher retirement incentives could result in the loss of 29,300 of NJ’s 143,750 certified teachers, or 20% of the work force. Some school districts are worried about losing their most experienced teachers, though Gov. Christie says “there are plenty of good, enthusiastic teachers ready to take their place.”

The New York Times examines NYC’s public schools’ predicament, where there will be many lay-offs. Commissioner Joel Klein says that seniority rules, which require that the most recently hired teachers be the first to lose their jobs, are “anachronistic:” “In an era of accountability, they say, the rules will upend their efforts of the last few years to recruit new teachers, improve teacher performance and reward those who do best.”

Ron Williams, Executive Director of the B.J. Wilkerson Memorial Child Development Center, gets paid $300K per year as head of a two-campus preschool and daycare center. The Center’s total annual budget is $4.3 million and 98% of it is government funds. So taxpayers compensate Mr. Williams at a rate of about $1,000 per toddler per year. On the other hand, reports The Record, Mr. Williams’ salary is set by the Center’s Board. Williams’ wife is vice-president of the Board.

Even-handed editorial today from the Star-Ledger Editorial Board, which urges the NJEA leadership to support local district salary freezes and urges Gov. Christie to exercise “flexibility” on the millionaire’s tax: “The typical school district faces a state aid cut amounting to 5 percent of last year’s budget, and a personnel cost increase of about 4 percent. Fixing one problem won’t take care of the other, but it sure would help.”

John Bury
on NJ’s “Bleak House” for pensions: reforms adopted this year are “otiose” and won’t save a cent til 2035: “All this legal action will do is profit a bunch of lawyers, including Carla Katz. The system is unsustainable and you can’t sue money into existence.”

The high rate of budget failures on Tuesday got the attention of national education analyst Joanne Jacobs:

Statewide, school spending increased by $1,003 per student last year, an average of 8 percent, reports New Jersey’s education department. Average per child comparative costs in K-12 districts rose to $13,601 during the 2008-09 school year, compared to $12,598 the prior year, and $11,939 in 2006-07. New Jersey is one of the highest spending states, but the reliance on property taxes means that some districts spend a lot more than others.

Over 14,000 public school students in NJ have registered for a new facebook page called “Protest NJ Education Cuts-State Wide School Walk Out.” The walk-out is planned for this Tuesday from 8-4; location is “everywhere in NJ.”

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