|Governor Chris Christie: Large and in-charge in New Jersey.|
In what can amount to political suicide going against the teachers’ unions whose deep pockets and ability to run attack ads that make their adversaries look like they are molesting children and throwing teachers into poverty and the unemployment lines, where many politicians even conservative Republicans tread softly not wanting to draw any fire, Christie is going right after them as part of his attempts to control runaway expenses for public employees and to reform wretchedly failing public schools.
As public school systems have grown into huge bureaucracies, the teachers’ unions have used their numbers to build a huge bully pulpit with a tremendous war chest supporting an agenda which is pure industrial style unionism which completely destroys the professionalism of public education. Between more and more government control and union manipulation, teachers are trained to function as drones to simply focus on process and procedure rather than be autonomous highly skilled professionals dedicated to the education and well-being of their pupils.
Governor Christie understands this is and is working to reinvent the process in New Jersey. Teachers are paid on the basis of seniority and blocks of advanced educational credits earned from a master’s equivalency and beyond. It is not unusual for teachers in northeastern school districts to earn $80 to $100 thousand a year at the top of the pay scale in addition to a fully-funded pension, health care for life which generally includes dental and vision care. The myth of poorly paid teachers is getting pretty flimsy for those who do their homework. Those lavish salaries are also for ten months of work. Whether a teacher is a compassionate great motivator of young minds or a lazy slug pilling up the years to retirement, teachers are paid the same. Ever since the first whispers of pay for performance surfaced in the late 70’s in the very early days of public education decline, there has been no issue that NEA and AFT affiliates have fought more vigorously than “merit” pay. Closely attached to merit pay is the concept of tenure which essentially means once a teacher has completed a probationary period, usually two years, dismissing a teacher for unsatisfactory work can become nearly impossible under some systems’ contracts.
If governor Christie is to have his way, New Jersey could soon become a model for the nation on how to take the first major steps toward breaking the back of the union shop mentality in public education and move attention to quality teaching by paying for performance. More effective teachers will be paid according and the ones who aren’t cutting it will be fired.
Watching Christie in action is a sight to behold.. In public forums he stands his ground unapologetically even suggesting to a teacher who spoke up about the miseries of her employment situation (clearly not focused on teaching issues) that if she was not happy with her teacher’s position she was free to find another job.
Once the public realizes exactly what kind of perks teachers have and see how much of their hard earned money going to schools through taxes, the public will quickly not buy the myth of the poor teacher any longer but will instead focus on getting rid of poor performing teachers. The New Jersey unions are able to offer little more than how can he be doing all this without teacher input. Well, as the representative of these public employees the New Jersey Educational Association has already established its position. The time for action is long overdue.
Here’s an article from the New York CBS affiliate on Governor Christie’s efforts.
Let us hope that New Jersey's program will set a model for the rest of America to consider. The time for this is long overdue.