Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Leftovers

How’d the week go for the School Funding Reform Act, now on trial before Judge Peter Doyne at State Superior Court? Depends upon whom you ask. Bob Braun says the state’s case has “exploded like a trick cigar in the faces of the state lawyers.” But the state, according to the Star-Ledger, had school finance expert Erik Hanushek testify that NJ public schools can still offer a thorough and efficient education in spite of state cuts. NJ Spotlight asks, “what’s ‘thorough and efficient’ anyway?"

Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger interviews Daniel DiSalvo, labor movement scholar, and asks how to measure the political power of public employee unions. Answer: “Where it’s most blatant is in small elections, like school boards. Most people don’t pay attention, whereas the unions have powerful incentive to get their people on those boards, so they turn out in large numbers.”

Rishawn Biddle at Drop Out Nation cautions that ending collective bargaining (all the buzz in Wisconsin) won’t lead to meaningful education reform.

The Wall Street Journal examines the impact of LIFO, or the policy of laying off teachers in order of “last in, first out.” Stany Leblanc, a second year teacher in NYC, has had enormous success with his poor black and Hispanic kids; after five months his sixth-graders are all reading and writing at grade-level. But he’ll be among the first to go when teachers are laid off in June, as will almost all (21 out of 25) of his colleagues at the South Bronx school.

NJ school board members are rejoicing because the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), which tries to settle labor disputes, said that Bloomfield Board of Education didn’t have to pay the “cost of increment” after a contract with its union expired. Cost of increment is the expense associated with moving teachers one step up on the salary guide based on an additional year of experience.

The Parsippany School Board is risking its state aid, says Gov. Christie, if they continue to defy his orders to stop paying Superintendent Roy Seitz more than new salary caps allow. (How much state aid do they get anyway? Probably not much.)

The Schools Development Authority will take on only ten school projects, reports NJ Spotlight, at a cost of $585 million. Winners are Bridgeton, Elizabeth, Long Branch, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson, and West New York.

Ray Pinney at NJSBA's BoardBlog
says that " it is a myth that the end of tenure would hurt education. If done right (a big if, I’ll admit) tenure reform, in conjunction with a fair and meaningful evaluation system, will enhance our educational system."

A small study out of Milwaukee
found that voucher programs save money for local districts.

Sharin’ the Christie Love: Peggy Noonan coos, “[h]is style—big, rumpled, garrulous, Jersey-blunt—has captured the imagination of the political class, and also normal people. They look at him and think, "I know that guy. I like that guy." And today’s New York Times kvells,
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey argued that the country was headed toward financial ruin if leaders did not summon the courage to tackle the most politically charged aspects of the problem, saying: “You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, I just said it, and I still am standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpet!”

2 comments:

kallikak said...

No more Mr. Nice Guy?

The Gov talks tough, but he already cut 85% of Parsippany's state aid, leaving only a little over $1M for this year.

How is he going to threaten districts in Bergen County that now receive nothing from Trenton save unfunded mandates?

Charters anyone?

kallikak said...

Ray Pinney misses the point: In a people-intensive system under severe pressure to reduce costs, a no-tenure/compromised due-process protocol can be gamed to trim older, more highly-paid teachers in favor of younger, cheaper ones. This is precisely what has taken place in the private sector over the last 30 years, with the added insult that some high-tech employers have green-carded their staffs because "we can't find properly qualified Americans for these jobs."

Baloney. It's all about the cost, not any quest for superior quality.

Right now, teacher pay in NJ runs between $40-100K, with a mean in the low $60s, plus very low-cost, high-value benefits.

Would some folks like to see that reduced to $30-75K with a $50K mean and employee half-paid benefits? You bet. Would such an outcome produce a cadre of more highly-skilled teachers?

Who cares?