Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sleeping With the Fishes

SONNY (standing in front of Tom, who's seated):

No; no; no! No more! Not this time, consiglieri. No more meetin's, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks. You give'em one message: I want Sollozzo -- if not, it's all-out war we go to the mattresses..
Where’s Francis Ford Coppola when you need him? This week NJEA’s leadership played Sonny from "The Godfather" and went to the mattresses over a bill to increase contributions to health and pension premiums. As PolitickerNJ reports, this was a violent miscalculation that, if the Assembly lines up as anticipated tomorrow, will diminish NJEA members’ paychecks. Apparently Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski met with the leadersof NJEA, CWA, and AFT last weekend as the union heads were becoming “nearly desperate.” A deal was put on the table:
The deal would have capped the salary contribution at 3 percent for the cheapest of the health care plans. Legislative and union leadership had reportedly been within striking distance of an agreement Wednesday before the talks fell apart. State Sen. President Steve Sweeney said the contribution cap was put aside once the unions demanded that the low-cost plan be set by statute as opposed to by a helath care committee with management and labor represented.

That deal would also have removed a so-called sunset provision from the legislation and included a non-imposition clause that would preclude the governor from imposing his last best contract offer on public workers. The new proposal would have partially restored cost of living increases on pension payments.

Union leadership reportedly rejected that deal.
Whether the rejection of the deal was due to hubris, defiance, or an anachronistic perception of power, teachers will now pay the price. (Perhaps NJEA President Barbara Keshishian should rethink her new slogan, "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” That’s another old movie reference, this one from “Network” released in 1976. If she’s modeling herself on Howard Beale, then the union’s really in trouble.)

Bigger question: does this public demonstration of flawed strategy and waning power have an impact on NJ’s hopes for meaningful education reform?

Actually, NJEA can regain some relevancy by a proactive stance on anathema concepts like expanded school choice, tenure reform, and more rigorous teacher evaluations. The Christie Administration is already moving forward with a pilot of value-added evaluations based on student growth. The Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, while experiencing some growing pains, is expanding. Charter school accountability if being stepped up. Recalcitrance is so yesterday. Can the union become a player again by, well, playing?

Meanwhile, NJEA is planning another march across the Delaware River tomorrow with members dressed in Revolutionary War garb Is there any better depiction of irrelevancy than that? They’ll march across the river with pitchforks and muskets in their hands. And the Assembly will pass the bill. Here’s a different plan: get the focus off money and back on education by changing the conversation to ways to improve student performance. Talk about kids.

1 comment:

technokat said...

A value-added evaluation is not only a bad idea, it is not a valid measurement of teacher effectiveness and student learning. Attempting to describe the countless variables in a particular student's life and their affect on that student's retention of skills and knowledge with a math equation is unconscionable, and should never be encouraged.

Teacher evaluations should never be tied to numbers. The nature of the learning process makes it nearly impossible to measure in entirety. As well, it takes a school to educate a child, not one teacher. The child's education is influenced by the school community just as his/her life is influenced by the greater community as an adult. To lay either merit or blame on a teacher based on a biased, one-sided measurement of a narrow skill-set is to not know education. It is absolutely imperative that those in positions of power (i.e. politicians and school board members such as yourself) understand learning/teaching processes in depth before making value judgments on educators. To do anything less is irresponsible.

Christie is making a mistake thinking he can and even should legislate teacher evaluations. New Jersey schools are among the finest in the country--and he's going to do his level best to run them into the ground until the only "choice" left is to privatize education. The schools are not failing like he would like you to think--yet by the time he's done ruining them, they will be. And after he does that, the elite will be the only ones who will be able to afford the Bill Gates model of unregulated privately-funded pseudo-schools. When that happens, those without access to privatized education will be running the streets uneducated. I hope you lock your doors at night.