Apparently, SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan failed to enforce standards of academic conduct upon an esteemed member of the Harvard Law School faculty while she was Dean of that institution. Excellent detail of this issue from the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law (Larry Velvel) who argues that Kagan should have been fired: click here
To hear some tell it, NJ Gov. Chris Christie is out to destroy NJ Children. He's poisoning their food, building his own personal Gitmo for detention of unruly students while destroying the entire education infrastructure of NJ. Here's a radio ad aired by the NJEA:
Then we have this video from the NJEA, claiming the NJ teacher pay and benefits lag far behind "comparable professionals." I guess we just have to take their word for what "comparable" really is. Anecdotally, I don't think there is a "comparable" profession that has regular summer sabbaticals included. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYso1IOcHr0]
Yet, we have some hard facts that stubbornly refuse to go away. As noted in this article, The NJ teachers have fought some rather high-minded approaches Christie has proposed to make education cuts less draconian. A plan that included a pay freeze (not a pay cut, mind you) for teachers was rejected out of hand, as it also required teachers to pay (a mere) 1.5% to the very generous healthcare plans they now enjoy.
In my view, the state that has the highest taxation rate while still running a budgetary shortfall of over 30% shouldn't have to make the case that spending cuts are needed. The state of NJ produced as much revenue as higher taxes could reasonably expected to produce. Even those who've never heard of the concept can intuit that NJ is quite likely on the wrong side of the Laffer curve and further tax increases most likely will reduce rather than increase revenue.
If you've never heard of the Laffer curve, it's simply the concept that there is on "optimal" tax rate for maximizing government revenue; below that point, there is untapped potential while above that rate, the tax burden causes the economy to shrink (reducing actual revenue). Most people know this instinctively-- that there is a middle ground between low revenue with no taxation and low revenue due to 100% taxation; after all, what incentive has a person to do anything economically productive when the gov't is the only or primary beneficiary?
The NJEAs argument that high pay and benefits are needed to attract top teachers simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. For one, the high pay and benefits go primarily not to new teachers, but to established veteran teachers. For another, pay and benefits are funded at the state level, but states rarely compete against each other for teachers.
Instead, the primary competition is within a state, or within a city. Most teachers are not primary breadwinners. Hence, their choice of where to live is not primarily based on their teaching occupation. Most likely, they are living in a location where the primary breadwinner is able to ply his or her trade. Hence, they are competing for a job only within a narrow geographic area. The school district has a competitive advantage in that it can interview candidates from all over the state or country, while the teacher is most likely NOT interviewing all over the country, but rather simply trying to find employment at the place they currently live.
In short, the districts don't need to "compete" much on the pay and benefits side to attract new talent, and those teachers who receive the better pay and benefits do so because of the lack of competition that has allowed them become more prosperous by simply surviving.
This is where we get into another problem with the the NJEA argument that they need give teachers exceedingly generous pay and benefits in order to attract top talent. Gov't employment rarely attracts top talent--period. Top talent recognizes that the majority of the appeal of gov't employment is job security--protection from competition. This doesn't attract achievement-oriented, confident people who believe they can make it anywhere, but rather another kind of person who views competition as more likely to cause them to lose than to win. Top achievers are far more likely to feel limited by the lack of opportunity provided by the entrenched gov't employment hierarchy populated by similarly minded fearers of competition.
Moreover, the best teachers don't pursue their careers to get rich anyway-- they view it as a calling, an outreach to children, a public service, etc. No one embarks on a teaching career with aspirations of wealth.
If the teacher unions really cared about children as much as they claim to, they would be in favor of a more competitive hiring environment that increases the level of educational excellence for the given dollar expenditure. Instead, they care primarily about their own golden eggs-- secure and intact regardless of how incredibly ineffective a teacher may be.
Finally, we see the most offensive non-sequitur of all: the idea that the teachers narrow personal interest is indistinguishable from the public interest at large. This offensively arrogant assertion lies at the heart of the message from the NJEA: keeping teacher pay at its current level is an attach on children! Making teachers pay a tiny fraction of their cadillac healthcare plans is an attack on children!
No, Barb Keshishian-- your public employee interest is NOT the public interest. You can drop the war on Gov Christie. The public is interested in having the best teachers work for free. Your Union interest are the most pay for the least work (like all other people's interests). These are not only different, they are diametrically opposed.