Score One for NJEA

Everyone’s covering Gov. Christie’s conditional veto of Senate Bill 1940, which posits that if a collective bargaining unit (i.e., local arm of a teachers union) agrees to wage or benefits concessions then “the amount of money which would have been required to fund those wages and benefits shall be applied to the maintenance of bargaining unit stall member positions.” (See coverage from New Jersey Newsroom, The Record, Courier Post.)

The bill was approved by the Assembly on a vote of 69-11, and is sponsored by a bevy of 13 senators. It was apparently written by the NJEA executive office. From an editorial by NJEA President Barbara Keshishian that ran last month in the Star-Ledger:
That is why NJEA filed legislation requiring any savings from salary concessions be used to restore laid-off staff. The bills, S1940/A2773, passed both the state Assembly and Senate by overwhelming bipartisan margins and await Christie’s signature.
New Jersey School Boards Association lobbied against the bill, and put out a position statement:
In a better economy, the legislation will serve only to interfere with the basic responsibility of local boards of education to provide educational services in the most cost-efficient manner possible. It would severely undermine their ability to carry out this responsibility by eliminating the managerial prerogative to allocate money saved through wage concessions for any purpose that would serve the interests of students and taxpayers.
Forget the mystery of why the bill, which directly undermines local district ability to control costs, passed both Houses by an overwhelming margin. (Okay, maybe not so mysterious. Look at the filer.) The greater mystery is why Gov. Christie's conditional veto is so weak. He limits his concern to a possible reading of the bill text that could require districts to negotiate with local unions any time they want to lay off staff, even when enrollment drops or when other financial needs present themselves. Here's Christie the Diplomat:
While I commend the sponsors for attempting to facilitate the preservation of school employee positions during this difficult economic time, I am concerned that this bill, as currently written, goes well beyond the situation which the sponsors were attempting to address.
As public education catches up with technology, data-driven curricula, and divergent educational needs of different groups, the last thing school districts need is a tightening of the handcuffs on highly-regulated fiscal plans. It's great when employees recognize that current wages or benefits are unsustainable and dip into their own pocketbooks to save the jobs of other staffers. But S1940 is all about protecting the jobs of adults, not the educational needs of the kids.

The union did its job; it protected its own. The Legislature didn't. Neither did Christie's conditional veto.

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