A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Week in the Media: Gov Christie and Teachers

I occasionally go to Google News and search Christie to see what the world thinks of our governor. I was looking today to see what was being written about Christie's teacher-tenure reforms. Here are a few excerpts from articles, most about education reform. It seems no articles about teachers or unions can be written without at least a nod to Christie. The articles below give you a flavor of what's being said this week:

NJ.com - Governor Christie Continues Assault on Teachers Unions at Town Hall Meeting in Cape May County

Virginia Gowen, a nurse at Lower Township Elementary School, was one of those applauding. She walked out halfway through the town hall meeting, she said, because she was upset at how Christie portrayed teachers.

In her district, where 54 percent of the elementary school students receive free lunches, Gowen said Christie is oversimplifying the jobs of teachers, who often have to deal with troubled, ill children.

"He’s just totally demeaning what I do at work,’’ Gowen said.

Businessweek - NJ Gov Sends Education Proposal to Legislature

Christie announced seven new bills that include basing teacher evaluations equally on student performance and twice-yearly classroom observations, granting tenure after three years of effective reviews, and creating a system of merit pay that rewards teachers who work in failing districts, specialize in hard-to-staff subjects or whose students demonstrate measurable improvement. . . .

Other bills in the package would protect young, accomplished teachers from layoffs by eliminating seniority protections for veteran teachers; allow districts to strip tenure protection from teachers rated ineffective; and make it quicker and less expensive to fire ineffective teachers. . . .

New Jersey Teachers Union spokesman Steve Wollmer said research shows that it's not effective or fair to judge teachers based on student test scores, in part because there are many factors that contribute to student achievement that teachers can't control. He also objected to the idea of merit pay, saying that it would create competition among teachers rather than foster a collegial environment that makes a school community thrive.

The merit pay proposal, he said, "is a classic case of the governor and his staff not understanding how a school works."

Wollmer said the idea of eliminating seniority protection for veteran teachers during layoffs is a thinly veiled attempt to decrease a district's bottom line by replacing experienced teachers with less expensive novice educators.

"Why is experience a liability in education -- it's not," he said.

The only proposal on which the governor and the union agree is speeding up the administrative process for firing a teacher. The union favors a quicker approach in part because it pays the legal bills while the case is pending.

Courier-Post Online - School Boards Confront Great Uncertainty

In 2010, there were 2,055 candidates running for 1,619 available school board seats, the New Jersey School Boards Association reported -- 60 percent of them incumbents seeking re-election.

This year, 2,222 candidates hope to fill 1,612 seats -- the first increase in candidates since 2006. But only 49 percent are incumbents.

The Christian Science Monitor - Why NJ Teacher-Tenure Reform Plan Matters to the Rest of America

Moves to weaken traditional job protections for teachers are gaining momentum around the country. Tenure reform bills were recently signed into law in Florida and Tennessee, and are being considered in Illinois, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and several other states. Delaware and Colorado passed such laws last year. . . .

Tenured teachers have due-process protections when a school district wants to fire them; districts can more easily remove untenured teachers.

NJ.com - Meet the "Anti-Christie" - CT Gov Dannell Malloy

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is seeking givebacks from the unions on the same scale as Christie, but he doesn’t blame public workers for those cushy contracts. He blames the politicians in both parties who signed them.

“Do I think the unions have made mistakes? Yes,” he says. “But every mistake they’ve made has been in concert with the governor and the Legislature. So let’s be honest. I don’t see the unions as the bad guys here. I’m not trying to scapegoat anybody, or blame anybody.”

Union leaders, who backed Malloy against Republican Tom Foley in November’s election, say Malloy’s respectful tone will make it easier for them to sell concessions to their members.

“With Tom Foley, we would have been the menu,” says Lori Pelletier, secretary general of the state’s AFL-CIO. “With Dan Malloy, we’re at the table.”

Compare that with the hissing and snarling that passes for conversation between Christie and, as he calls them, the “union thugs” he constantly denounces. . .

Will Malloy’s liberal approach to the crisis succeed? That depends a lot on the unions.

Malloy needs $1 billion in givebacks to make this work, a staggering sum that the union says works out to about $20,000 per worker.

If the unions don’t budge, Malloy vows massive layoffs and program cuts.
“I’d prefer to downsize over time,” he says. “But if I have to do it overnight, I will.”

The New York Times - Christie Takes Conservatism Beyond Fiscal Issues

Mr. Christie had little political experience to define him when he ran for governor in 2009; . .. During the campaign, the state’s deep financial trouble took center stage. Mr. Christie focused on the state’s high taxes, played down his opposition to abortion, and aligned himself with President Obama on subjects like education reform and promoting wind and solar energy. And the new governor was a blank slate on some issues, like global warming.

In office, he eliminated the state’s Office of Climate Change, cut funding for clean energy programs and eliminated New Jersey’s share of financing for a 10-state greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that is anathema to many conservatives.

. . . In November, Mr. Christie went further: He revealed that he was skeptical that human activity was responsible for climate change. . . . On March 11, he pulled New Jersey out of a multistate lawsuit aimed at curbing greenhouse emissions from power plants, and on March 24, he said he might also withdraw entirely from the cap-and-trade program.

in January, the governor addressed a large anti-abortion rally in Trenton, saying, “This is an issue whose time has come.” . . . In September, he vetoed state support for family planning clinics, a move strongly backed by anti-abortion groups because some of the clinics performed abortions. Last month, after the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved a much smaller appropriation for family planning, backed mostly by federal dollars, he vetoed that, too. Mr. Christie also applied for federal money for abstinence-only education . . ..


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