Educate the Assembly

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Some big-name coverage today of the kerfuffle between NJEA’s leadership and Gov. Christie over unsustainable school costs and the high incidence of school budget defeats last Tuesday. From The New York Times:

It’s a New Jersey story, of course, because that’s where government bloat and dysfunction have become an art form… It’s pretty clear that current trends in salaries and benefits for public employees are unsustainable, but it’s also clear that fixing budget and tax policies will take more than getting tough on them.

Josh McMahon, former political editor for the Star-Ledger notes in New Jersey Newsroom:

[T]he take away from the historic school board elections is doh…the people aren’t happy.They want property taxes brought under control. They think teachers and government workers are out of touch with economic reality. They want meaningful change and they’re not willing to wait years for it to happen,

Alfred Doblin, Editorial Page Editor of The Record, takes umbrage at NJEA bosses’ refusal to consider concessions and warns about consequential public outrage:

[T]eachers also must be realistic — most private-sector workers are making sacrifices.

The louder the rallies, the more likely public support will move closer to the governor and farther away from hardworking, middle-class men and women who teach. A 1.5 percent contribution toward health care is nothing. Retiring at 62 or even 65 is not the end of the world. A pension, instead of having to rely solely on a 401(k) and maybe savings, is still a very good thing. And tenure – well, if the angry rallies continue, tenure will be on the table. And that is a Pandora’s box best left shut in this political climate.

The Times also notes that NJ’s school districts have just suffered the highest rate of school budget defeats since New Jersey School Boards Association started keeping track of these statistics in 1976. Yet a casual listener to the 4 and 1/2 hour Assembly Budget hearing this afternoon would be forgiven for thinking that taxpayers reside in one NJ — one where school costs are patently unsustainable — and that some of the Assembly members reside in a separate reality — where it’s appropriate to gripe about school aid cuts, teacher lay-offs, lack of adherence to the school funding formula, and Comm. Schundler’s prediction that next year could be worse. If the Assembly can’t read the electorate, maybe it should start reading local papers.

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