“Bill titles, with their often loaded and coded language, have become marketing tools for lawmakers looking to sell their policies to their colleagues and constituents.”
The Washington Post
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”
BLOG POST SUMMARY – “Democracy Enhancement” is in the eye of the beholder
What’s in a name?
In the case of New Jersey Senate Bill S-2137 (the Democracy Enhancement Act), it all depends on who you ask.
The NJEA View
According to the NJEA, democracy is “enhanced” because the bill:
The Americans for Prosperity View
But According to Americans for Prosperity, the bill does anything BUT enhance democracy because it ...
Who should we believe?
To be fair, both the NJEA and Americans for Prosperity can possibly be described as biased, because each appeals to a different group of individuals.
So maybe it would be helpful to get some other points of view on the matter.
ALTERNATE VIEWPOINT #1 – The New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJSLM)
The NJSLM doesn’t have too much to say about Assembly Bill S-2137:
“We are currently reviewing the bill.”
But in its March 9, 2018 weekly update, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities described it ...
“... as a pre-emptive response to Janus v. AFSCME, a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.” [bold and underline added]
In case you are not familiar with “Janus,” the NJEA posted an article about this case on its website last November.
The title of that article pretty much reveals the NJEA’s opinion, and also suggests why the union would be supportive of a “pre-emptive” attempt to counteract it:
“Anti-worker case before US Supreme Court threatens union member’s rights.” [bold and underline added]
Janus poses a serious threat to NJEA power.
Here is a good summary from The Stand website:
“In Janus v. AFSCME, a lawyer for an anti-union group will argue that requiring union-represented public employees to pay anything at all to the union would be an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment free speech rights — because that would be like making them pay for political speech they might disagree with.”
Right now in New Jersey, union dues are automatically taken out of member’s paychecks. If Janus wins, this will mean that the union will lose a whole lot of money as unhappy members opt entirely out of paying into the system.
UNION DUES IN NJ – Links from the Anti-NJEA Blog
I have written on the topic of union dues in New Jersey several times in the past couple of months. You can check out the links below if you are interested.
ALTERNATE VIEWPOINT #2 – The New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC)
NJAC is very straightforward in voicing its concerns with the Act. It …
ALTERNATE VIEWPOINT #3 – The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA)
The NJSBA doesn’t mince words either when it comes to the Democracy Enhancement Act - the title of it’s March 20th legislative update makes this crystal clear:
“Legislative Update: Assembly Committee OK’s ‘Overreaching’ Union Access Bill” [bold and underline added]
Consider some excerpts of the testimony they gave to the legislature:
ALTERNATE VIEWPOINT #4 – The New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities (NJASCU)
The NJASCU keeps a web page which archives all of the testimony it gives on legislative bills in New Jersey. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated for 2018.
Still, we know that they did testify before the Assembly last week because the NJSBA indicates this:
“NJSBA Governmental Relations Director Michael Vrancik provided testimony on the bill, along with representatives from the N.J. Association of Counties, the state League of Municipalities and the Association of State Colleges and Universities.” [Bold and underline added]
The fact that the NJSBA mentions this organization in the same sentence as the other organizations discussed previously, implies that it would most likely concur with the comments of all of the other groups who are skeptical about this proposed legislation.
BACK TO THE AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY POINT OF VIEW
Americans for Prosperity makes some important and legitimate points about S-2137:
CONCLUSION – For the NJEA, money equals power.
From what I can gather, the only organizations that thinks democracy is “enhanced” through this bill are public employee unions like the NJEA.
All school-related organizations (NJSLM, NJAC, NJSBA and NJASCU) have serious reservations.
In addition, Americans for Prosperity, makes a decent case for opposing the act.
I have used the following Upton Sinclair quote before, but I think it especially applies here because it pretty much summarizes why the NJEA and its members might feel that this Act advances “… the rights of working people in New Jersey.”
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Think about it.
Here is a hint: $$$
"With overwhelming support from public education advocates, the Assembly Education Committee today unanimously supported A-665, a bill intended to ensure that New Jersey’s students are able to learn in classrooms maintained at appropriate temperatures."
NJEA Article, March 12, 2018
I wrote a blog post several months ago on this issue. Now that the NJ Assembly Education Committee has telegraphed its support for "climate-control" legislation, it seemed appropriate to reprint it now.
I am sure that I will get a negative response from many teachers on this one, but when has the Anti-NJEA Blog ever been a stranger to controversy?
So here goes ...
EXTREME TEMPERATURES ARE A SCHOOL HAZARD?
Did you know that there is a Temperature Control Petition making its way through New Jersey public schools?
No, I am not talking about the typical “we support action against Global Climate Change” petition which shows up at least once a year around Earth Day.
The one I am talking about states:
“We support temperature control legislation that would require each board of education in New Jersey to adopt a written policy... Temperature control legislation would ensure the creation of common sense plans to address this increasingly common hazard.”
Hold on there, extreme temperatures are a “hazard?”
According to this petition, yes they are. And since extreme temperatures are that bad:
“No child should have to deal with extreme classroom temperatures that are not conducive to learning and may pose a serious health risk [emphasis added].”
Yes, it does occasionally get hot in the classroom. Even I will admit that. There are usually a couple of days in September when we sweat a bit as the temperature gets into the 90’s. And, of course, June can be a bit hot also. We could get a couple of straight days in the 90’s then for sure.
But is it really that serious of a health risk? Do we really need a law to deal with a situation that arises maybe 3-4 times a school year?
IS THIS WHOLE THING JUST A JOKE?
I have to say that my first reaction when reading about this petition was that it was some sort of joke. Then, after reading through it, it struck me that maybe this was just an informal idea dreamed up by some elementary teacher with a penchant for hyperbole (who might have been suffering through last week’s 90+ degree weather). I mean, the wording was just too extreme, especially the use of the word “hazard” and the phrase “serious health risk.”
So I decided to dig a bit to find out where on earth this proposal was coming from. I found that the person who drafted this petition was serious.
There is actually an organization in New Jersey called the Work Environment Council (WEC) which deals with these types of issues.
NO JOKE – IT’S THE WORK ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL HARD AT WORK
According to the mission statement, the WEC
“…is an alliance of labor, community, and environmental organizations working together for safe, secure jobs, and a healthy, sustainable environment.”
There are a couple of issue areas that this group focuses on but the one that applies here comes under the heading “Healthy School Environments.”
Here is the description:
“… health and safety dangers often threaten students, teachers, and other school personnel. Poor indoor air quality, mold, asbestos, construction dust, and vermin are just some of these hazards. WEC’s Healthy Schools program helps teachers and other school staff prevent workplace and environmental school hazards.”
I think everyone would agree that REAL hazards like mold, asbestos, vermin, etc. should be taken care of by school districts. No reasonable person is going to argue with taking care of REAL issues.
But a couple of hot days? That is a hazard that requires legislation?
And wouldn’t you guess that our NJEA dues are helping to back this organization which is pushing for climate control in the classroom (5th “funder” down on the list).
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN, RIGHT?
I know, it is all about the children. We want this legislation to protect the children. You have to think about the children, after all.
Of course, this has nothing to do with teachers being uncomfortable in a shirt and tie (or dress) and just having to deal with it like we have been doing for decades.
It is for the kids.
After all, if a district announces in advance (based on the weather reports) that school will be closed because of approaching sunny and hot weather, its not like those selfless educators will be heading down to the Jersey Shore for some R&R.
“We will rebuild this state on the shoulders of our union brothers and sisters …”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on his first budget.
“We will rebuild this state on the shoulders of our union brothers and sisters … at the expense of the tax payer.”
Anti-NJEA Writer John Cardone finishing off Governor Murphy’s sentence
DREAMTIME IN NEW JERSEY FOR MURPHY AND THE NJEA
If you listened to Governor Phil Murphy’s budget address the other day, you would probably agree that he has big plans for New Jersey.
Can he actually carry out these plans?
The NJEA sure hopes so.
The union posted a very positive article on its website March 13 entitled: “NJEA lauds Gov. Murphy’s first budget.”
Here is what the NJEA liked:
Enacting all of this is a tall order – so tall that I have christened Murphy’s tenure “Dream-time in New Jersey.”
MURPHY THINKS TAXES ARE THE ANSWER
Implementing this laundry list of ideas will take a whole lot of money. Unfortunately, unlike the Federal Government, states can’t just print it out of thin air.
States can certainly borrow money, but New Jersey’s credit rating is the second lowest in the country (behind Illinois).
Which means that Murphy has to raise taxes.
"New Jersey’s Budget Would Raise Taxes on Almost Everything"
Here are some of the taxes Murphy would implement to enable all of this extra spending:
WAKE UP CALL: Forget dream-time, we are headed for a nightmare
In 2014 Moody’s warned that New Jersey’s Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) “could fully expend their assets as soon as … 2027.”
In early March of this year, S&P Global Ratings echoed this warming when commenting on Murphy’s decision to increase the assumed pension return from 7% to 7.5%.
“… it won’t fix a system with a combined unfunded payments and medical-benefits liability that reached $184.3 billion in 2017 … The two biggest funds are forecast to be broke in 2024 and 2027.”
Taxes will not plug this gap. In fact, they will most likely backfire.
People with the means to pay are not going to wax altruistic and eagerly open up their wallets in order to help out the “union brothers and sisters.” Instead, they will simply vote with their feet.
The “millionaires tax” is a great example. A recent Zero Hedge article correctly points out:
“… New Jersey fails to grasp … that the truly rich can pick up and go at a moment's notice, and transfer to any place in the country (or outside of it) that actually does not endorse daylight robberies.”
So it may be “dream-time” in New Jersey for now, but if Murphy gets all of those taxes passed it is sure to turn into a nightmare.
New Jersey could quickly become the new Illinois.
THESIS OF THIS BLOG POST
The Anti-Gun School Walkouts planned for March 14 in New Jersey are politically motivated activities taking place on school premises during school hours. Does this make them illegal? From my reading of NJSA 11A (Civil Service), New Jersey state law does not prohibit this activity. However, these planned activities do appear to violate a number of local school board policies and regulations.
This post will specifically focus on the Madison, NJ School District where Peri Munter, a senior at the local High School, has planned an event for March 14.
Ms. Munter's inspiration for this event can be traced to the Women's March Web Site and she is advertising her event at The Action Network Web Site.
In the conclusion to this post, I ask an important question:
If school districts allow these Anti-Gun Walk-Out's to proceed, will they keep an open mind when a pro-gun group decides to organize a similar event in the future?
IT’S COVERED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT … RIGHT?
On March 14, students in districts across New Jersey will be walking out of their schools in order to show their support for ...
“… an end to gun violence in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.”
These students will be taking part in a nation-wide “movement” sponsored by the Women’s March Youth Empower. Hundreds of school districts throughout the United States have signed up to participate.
When my son first told me about his school’s plan to participate in the March 14 movement, I counselled him to accept it in stride. After all, even (especially!) speech we don’t agree with must be respected because it is protected by the First Amendment. I told him to be open-minded, that these students are just going to be exercising their rights.
But when I listened to a podcast from The Tom Woods Show - Episode 1108 (School “Walkouts” for Gun Control Are Illegal), my perspective changed somewhat.
Woods summarized the show as follows:
“A schoolteacher in a left-liberal state argues that the school walkout movement — which is obviously spreading through intimidation, and the implied suggestion that no other point of view deserves a hearing — is in fact illegal, since it amounts to political activity by schoolteachers at taxpayer expense.”
Now here was an angle that I hadn’t even considered.
I don’t know what state this teacher works in, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe the planned New Jersey “walk-outs” were also illegal.
WHAT NEW JERSEY STATUTE (NJSA 11A) SAYS – It’s legal
The argument of the teacher on the Tom Woods Podcast was a straightforward one:
Fact - Teachers are not allowed to engage in political activity during school hours.
Fact - Participation in (or even supervision of) a walk-out to protest gun violence would certainly mean involvement in a political activity by teachers.
Conclusion – If the walk-out went forward, administration, teachers and students would be involved in an illegal act.
NJSA 11A:2-23 is pretty clear on this issue:
“Political activity limited. A person holding a position in the career service or senior executive service shall not directly or indirectly use or seek to use the position to control or affect the political action of another person or engage in political activity during working hours.”
The way I read this, individuals in public “career service … [cannot] … engage in political activity during working hours.”
But the important point here is determining if New Jersey teachers are actually in public “career service.”
Further along in the law we find the possible answer. NJSA 11A:3-5 seems to indicate that teachers are exempt from this prohibition to engage in political activity:
“Political subdivision unclassified service. The political subdivision unclassified service shall not be subject to the provisions of this title unless otherwise specified and shall include the following:
So my reading of NJSA 11A:3-5g is that teachers are not prohibited from engaging in political activity because they are a “political subdivision” that is specifically listed as exempt.
I am not an attorney, so my reading of this law may be incorrect. But for the purposes of this blog post I am assuming that there is no legal barrier to letting these walk-outs proceed.
SCHOOL BOARD POLICY ON POLITICAL ACTIVITY
While I conclude that political activity by teachers is not prohibited at the state level, the same cannot be said for political activity at the local level.
In the course of my research for this blog post, I came across an article on NorthJersey.com about the Montclair, NJ school district. This article discussed the possibility that specific policies of the Board of Education in Montclair might actually prohibit a walk-out.
“Two Montclair parents say a gun-control walk-out could violate district policy”
The article raised some important questions but never really came to a conclusion either way. So I decided to look at board policies in New Jersey to see if I could get clarification on this issue.
It turns out that this was very easy to do, because many boards of education in NJ conveniently provide all of their board policies on-line in an easily searchable format.
One of the first things that I discovered was that all of the districts I researched had the same policies. Not only that, they actually employed the exact same wording for those policies. It was almost as if there was some centralized database of School Board Policies that all boards of education downloaded and then just signed off on at the local level.
This discovery was helpful because it enabled me to generalize. I realized that I didn’t really have to read every New Jersey school district’s policy manual in order to make a comment that applied state-wide.
Finally, and most importantly, all Boards of Education appear to have policies which cover political demonstrations like the March 14 planned walk-out.
WHY I CHOSE TO FOCUS ON MADISON, NJ
I could have picked any school district for my focus, but I settled upon Madison, NJ as my case study. I did this for two reasons:
SOME FACTS ABOUT MADISON, NJ
Here are some important facts to keep in mind regarding the planned Madison, NJ walk-out:
RELEVANT MADISON BOARD OF EDUCATION POLICIES AND REGULATIONS
From what I can tell, there are five Board of Education policy regulations/guidelines that are relevant to the planned walk out on March 14:
I will summarize each of these policies in the remainder of this post. If you want to read the entire district policy, you can click through to the exact wording because links are provided.
DISTRICT REGULATION 2361 – ACCEPTABLE USE OF COMPUTER NETWORKS
“In the event the district provides email accounts, all messages sent and received on the school district computer networks/computers must have an educational purpose and are subject to review.” [Bold and underline added]
Peri Munter, the senior who is organizing the Madison, NJ walk-out, is using her school email account for contact about the event.
Important question: How “educational” is the “purpose” of the work Ms. Munter is doing for this anti-gun event?
DISTRICT POLICY 3233- POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
This policy is listed under a section called Teaching Staff Members. It acknowledges that teachers have a right “to engage in political activity” but it also “prohibits the use of school premises and school time … for partisan political purposes.”
Important question: If this planned walk-out involves teachers and it uses “school premises and school time … for a partisan political” purpose, is it in violation of District Policy 3233?
DISTRICT POLICY 4233- POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
This policy is listed under a section called Support Staff. It is the exact same policy basically word for word but applies to support staff in schools.
Important question: If this planned walk-out involves any support staff and it uses “school premises and school time … for a partisan political” purpose, is it in violation of District Policy 4233?
DISTRICT POLICY 5842- EQUAL ACCESS OF PUPIL ORGANIZATIONS
This policy is listed under a section called Students and pertains to “the use of school facilities by pupil-initiated organizations for non-curricular pupil activities.”
The wording is pretty clear:
“A pupil-initiated organization, regardless of the size of the group, will not be denied an opportunity to meet and use school facilities on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at their meeting.”
This policy seems to provide the key support for allowing the walk-out on March 14 – but the devil might just be in the details.
The principal will only give approval if:
Important questions: As per item #3, if no employee can participate in the meeting, where are the teachers going to be during the walk-out? Will teachers who wear orange be considered participating? As per item #5, does a 17-minute walk-out (plus time to get there and back) count as a substantial interference of instruction? My estimate is that the entire proceeding will take at least 30 minutes.
DISTRICT POLICY 7510- USE OF SCHOOL FACILITIES
This policy is listed under a section called Property and pertains to use of “school facilities of this district … for community purposes.”
Here is what this policy says about the use of school facilities (which “also includes school grounds”).
The use should …
“not interfere with the educational and co-curricular programs of the school district and the district does not incur additional, uncompensated expenses.” [Bold and underline added]
Important question: If this event is considered a use of school facilities for a community purpose (rather than a pupil organization as discussed above), who will pay for the possible extra police presence at the school (should it be required)?
Regarding the procedural issues specified by this Policy:
Important questions: If this event is considered a use of school facilities for a community purpose:
CONCLUSION – Fair is fair?
A number of legitimate questions were posed in the preceding sections.
Assuming that they are adequately answered, and that all of board policies and regulations have been properly complied with, the walk-outs should certainly proceed.
But there is one nagging concern that I can’t seem to put to rest in my mind.
If these New Jersey boards of education allow an anti-gun walk out next week, will they permit counter walk-outs in the future?
For example, if a pro-gun group decides to organize a similar event, will these districts do the right thing?
Or will (as Tom Woods fears) other points of view be suppressed …
“… through intimidation, and the implied suggestion that no other point of view deserves a hearing?”
This article is from the Smithsonian Magazine.
Deranged individuals who want to murder innocent people will always find a way to do so. Take away their guns, they will use knives, baseball bats, trucks and even bombs.
This 1927 bombing killed 44 people - 38 were young children.
FORCED UNION MEMBERSHIP
When the NJEA acts to directly help its teachers, I stand behind it and provide my full support. Teacher pay and benefits, for example, are the kinds of things that I want the union to focus on.
A particularly important issue that should be at the top of the union’s list of priorities is the looming NJ pension crisis. Although I might disagree with the specific method to address this crisis, I still appreciate the NJEA’s work in this regard.
But I have a big problem when the officers of my union take a stand on divisive political issues and then make statements on my behalf. When they do this, they forget that not all NJEA members are on the same side of the political spectrum.
Now, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if those members who disagree could just refuse to join the union or drop out at will.
Unfortunately in New Jersey, teachers don’t have that choice.
THE FREE RIDER PROBLEM
There actually is a legitimate reason why teachers are forced to join the union. It is all about what economists call the free-rider problem.
This is a situation where people benefit from a service but they don’t pay for it. It is relevant here because the NJEA does provide a certain benefit for all teachers. It wouldn’t really be fair to let all teachers benefit if only certain teachers have to actually foot the bill.
But what about all of the money that the NJEA spends to support political ideas and policies that have no direct effect on salaries and benefits?
Why should all members be forced to support this?
REASON FOR THIS BLOG POST – NJEA’s Anti-Gun Rhetoric
Yesterday NJEA President Marie Blistan came out in opposition to the suggestion that teachers should be armed in schools in order to protect themselves and the students under their care.
When I read Blistan’s statement, I starting thinking again about how I could best protest the union’s unnecessary involvement in politics. After all, why should my hard earned money go to an organization whose President says things that are completely the opposite of what I believe?
A potential protest idea is suggested in the conclusion of this blog post, but first here are two of the controversial statements that Blistan made that I totally disagree with.
Controversial Comment #1
“NJEA is adamantly opposed to the idea of arming educators as a response to the scourge of gun violence in our public schools.”
Well I’m an NJEA member and I am not opposed to this idea. I actually think that having individuals trained to safely use firearms in a school setting is a good idea. And it wouldn’t necessarily mean that these teachers would have the guns on their person during school hours. There could be gun safes in designated rooms that only certain teachers know the combination of. These teachers could then access weapons if the need arose.
Controversial Comment #2
“Schools should be safe havens for learning and development. They should not become armed fortresses of fear.”
At first reading, this kind of sounds reasonable, right?
But before you conclude that this statement actually IS reasonable, ask yourself a couple of questions:
In case you don’t get where I am going with this, let me spell it out for you:
In each example above, individuals had to go through metal detectors and various other screening protocols. Once inside, they were in a facility chock full of individuals carrying guns.
“Fortresses of fear,” Ms. Blistan?
More like “fortresses of safety.”
So if “fortresses of safety” are good enough for sporting events and courts of law, why not also for schools?
CONCLUSION – Maybe it’s time to opt-out.
Which brings me to opting out.
I came across a video on YouTube entitled: NJEA members, it’s time to opt out!
This was an interview that Bill Spadea (New Jersey 101.5) conducted with Erica Jedynak back in 2016.
In the interview, Erica Jedynak explained to the host how teachers could opt out of paying full dues to the NJEA. Sufficiently intrigued, I reached out to Ms. Jedynak for some more information on this process.
She was gracious enough to respond and provided two links which I recommend you check out if you have any interest at all in this topic.
How to Opt Out of NJEA Dues
NJEA Sues Blogger for Spreading the Opt-Out Message
I don't know about you, but this opt-out possibility sure sounds intriguing.
“This epidemic of gun violence against children must stop, but that will not happen until more of our elected leaders decide that they value the lives of our children more than they value the political agenda of the gun lobby.”
NJEA President Marie Blistan
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
THE GUN LOBBY MURDERED THOSE CHILDREN
Well that didn’t take very long.
A little more than two hours after the Florida school shooter was taken into custody yesterday afternoon, President Marie Blistan posted a statement to the NJEA website:
“NJEA: Latest school shooting demands action.”
Her decision to comment on this tragedy was certainly understandable - unfortunately the focus of her commentary was totally misplaced.
For some (inexplicable?) reason she failed to lay the blame for this shooting on the person who actually carried it out. She never once acknowledged that an individual used a gun to commit those murders.
Instead, she kept her comments very general.
Here are some examples of the language she used:
So if she wasn’t prepared to blame the actual shooter, who was at fault?
The “gun lobby,” of course.
Clearly, NJEA President Marie Blistan isn’t letting this tragedy go to waste.
PREVENTING FUTURE INCIDENTS
On a final note, we do agree with one of Blistan’s statements:
“We also remember that mere sympathy without meaningful action will not help prevent future incidents like this.”
Action is certainly necessary to prevent “future incidents like this.”
The best way to prevent “future incidents like this” is to have armed security on campus.
Deranged killers know that schools are gun-free zones. They understand that no one will be there to stop them.
Why do we continue to allow our children to be sitting ducks in a shooting gallery?
CNN and other media outlets are rightfully treating football coach Aaron Feis as a hero. He used his own body to shield students against the bullets from the murderer.
But think how much better the situation might have turned out if Mr. Feis had been armed.
Instead of reading about how many innocent children were murdered at that Florida High School, we might be reading about how many children were saved instead.
All NJEA members can agree that what happened in Florida was a tragedy.
Not all agree with President Blistan that we should blame the “gun lobby.”
“The latest Department of Administration (DOA) memo estimates the General Fund deficit in the next biennium to be $3.6 billion.”
“Without action, NJ budget deficit could climb to $3.6B by 2023, Moody’s warns.”
New Jersey, 2017
“… [Wisconsin Governor Scott] Walker was able to close a $3.6 billion deficit by … constraining the ability of public-sector labor unions to negotiate wages and terms of employment along with halting mandatory union membership for the state’s teachers …”
Five Years Later, How Much Gov. Walker’s Union Legislation Saved Wisconsin
WISCONSIN , 2011 – The future of NJ forshadowed…
We are not in any way happy that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plugged his $3.6 billion budget deficit on the backs of the state’s public employees in 2011.
With Wisconsin Act 10, the fate of all public employees in that state was sealed. Public unions were “stripped of the authority to negotiate retirement savings, health care, and time off, leaving intact limited bargaining abilities for base pay.”
Clearly, union power was weakened to the point of irrelevancy in Wisconsin.
But our displeasure with Walker doesn’t change certain facts of reality when it comes to union pension and benefits.
Our New Jersey teacher’s union, the NJEA, is simply dreaming if it thinks that it can avoid similar measures being enacted in New Jersey in the very near future.
No doubt, it spent a whole lot of money to elect Governor Phil Murphy in 2017 with the intention of furthering the cause of public school employees.
But it is also without doubt that this was most likely money wasted.
There simply isn’t enough money available in NJ right now to make our pensions whole.
Worse, the citizens of the state are not going to support higher taxes to fill the gap.
When teachers ignore reality and chant slogans like: “You say cut back, we say fight back,” and “No pensions, no peace," they fail to realize that the times have changed.
When the US economy enters its next recession (which may very well be worse than the Great Recession), it’s only going to get worse for professional educators.
Unlike the boy in the fairly tale, our union won’t be able to stop the floodwaters by sticking fingers in the dyke.
INSPIRATION FOR THIS BLOG POST – UFT tells of the decimation in Wisconsin
We were inspired to write this post after we read an article at the United Federation of Teachers website last week: Wisconsin teachers suffer after unions decimated
As the title suggests, this article lamented the declining position of Wisconsin teachers ever since Governor Scott Walker passed Act 10.
On a good note, this law managed to solve the state’s budget deficit.
On a not so good note, this was accomplished on the backs of the teachers.
Here are some highlights of this Act:
The results for teachers were pretty devastating:
WHAT THE UFT LEFT OUT – Money doesn’t grow on trees.
The UFT article makes some excellent points. The only problem is that it left out the most important part.
It never once mentions the funding issue.
Government promises or no, the reality was that Wisconsin simply didn’t have the money to continue paying teachers at the rate that the union expected them to be paid.
Did teachers get screwed?
They sure did.
But doesn’t the UFT get it that money doesn’t just grows on trees?
THE UFT DOES ITS MEMBERS A DISSERVICE
The UFT did its members a disservice by presenting this Wisconsin story as if it was just about bad, anti-teacher politicians screwing innocent, high-minded teachers.
The article doesn’t’ even mention the deficit of 3.6 billion dollars that Wisconsin faced back in 2011.
That is a pretty salient point in the whole story, don’t you think?
It seems that the purpose of the article was only to get UFT members all wound up about the injustice that was perpetrated in Wisconsin (actual truth be damned).
How can an honest portrayal of the situation leave out the money part?
We get the fact that the UFT is biased in favor of its members. It stands to reason that it wants them to have higher salaries and better benefits. But by over-simplifying this issue, the union is setting up its members for a hard fall in the not too distant future.
THE ANTI-NJEA BLOG – Not Anti-Union (just realistic)
We get tired of all of the posts we receive on Facebook saying that we are not really teachers and that we work for some conservative right wing anti-teacher cause.
That is the farthest thing from the truth.
We fully acknowledge having enjoyed the benefits that our unions have provided for us. The NJEA and NEA are strong advocates for teachers and they have been successful in many ways.
But we see the writing on the wall and we are simply trying to get the message out.
You can’t be a dreamer when it comes to your pension and benefits.
The sooner you stop counting on your ever-more-questionable full defined benefit pension, the better you will be prepared for the reality that is coming down the pike.
Start saving on your own for retirement before it is too late.
Defined benefit pension plans are soon to be a thing of the past.
NJ can’t afford it and the taxpayers are not going to stand for it much longer.
It’s high-time to wake up from the dream.
“NJEA’s Delegate Assembly (DA) voted to join the national call for Black Lives Matter at School Week, which began in Seattle in 2016 and will be held this year Feb. 5-11.”
NJEA.Org, January 29, 2018
THESIS OF THIS BLOG POST – black lives matter, not Black Lives Matter
Black lives definitely matter.
Issues specifically important to blacks also matter.
And since February is Black History Month, we can understand why the NJEA would want to increase awareness about this.
When it comes to black lives, issues like restorative justice, the school-to-prison pipeline, zero-tolerance discipline policy and the Amistad Law are all legitimate topics of conversation.
While we certainly don’t agree with the NJEA’s point of view on each of those topics (see our blog archives for details), we do get where the NJEA is coming from.
So what’s the purpose of this blog post? What exactly is the problem?
The problem is that the NJEA didn’t just stop there. It took the additional step of linking these legitimate black issues with the controversial Black Lives Matter Movement.
This decision was entirely unnecessary. Worse, it will only widen the rift within our union between the liberal/progressive wing and the mainstream/conservative one.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The NJEA fails to understand that black lives matter is not the same thing as Black Lives Matter.
THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT – NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY
If you don’t think there is any controversy when it comes to Black Lives Matter, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Do your own internet search if you want to – the articles dealing with the controversy are easy to find.
In fact, you don’t even have to go to "right-leaning" websites to verify this fact. All of the main-stream outlets have reported on it.
Here is a short list we found when using the search terms “black lives matter” and “controversy”
‘Permanently disabled’ Baton Rouge officer sues Black Lives Matter for 2016 ambush shooting
Black Lives Matter protesters return to the streets
Controversy over Black Lives Matter
The controversy surrounding Black Lives Matter in Canada
Black Lives Matter Emerges as Controversial Force in the U.K.
Afropunk Festival Drops Headliner M.I.A. After Black Lives Matter Controversy
THE NJEA GIVES TACIT APPROVAL TO BLACK LIVES MATTER
When the NJEA voted to “join the national call for Black Lives Matter at School,” it gave its tacit approval to the general Black Lives Matter Movement and everything it stands for.
Wait, what is that you say?
“But the NJEA doesn’t support everything that Black Lives Matters stands for, just some of it. You know, only the reasonable things – not the stuff that is way far out there.”
Really? So you think that it is OK for the NJEA to just pick and choose like this?
Well, when you consider the following somewhat extreme analogy, you may change your mind …
WELCOME TO: "Adolph Hitler is Great for Everything Week"
NOTE: The analogy we are making here is between the NJEA and the hypothetical "ORGANIZATION" which we reference below. If you read carefully, you will see that we are not making a comparison between Black Lives Matter and Hitler/Nazis.
Let’s pretend that there is an ORGANIZATION somewhere in the United States that calls for an Adolf Hitler is Great for Everyone Week.
Pretty outrageous, no?
“But this ORGANIZATION doesn’t support everything that Hitler and the Nazi’s stood for, just some of it. You know, only the reasonable things – not the stuff that is way far out there.”
Members of the ORGANIZATION point out that Hitler did some good things. He:
But after publicly supporting Adolph Hitler is Great for Everyone Week, is anyone going to believe it when this ORGANIZATION denies that it is anti-Semitic.
Probably not - and for good reason.
When you choose to associate with a group, people naturally assume that your values align with the values of that group.
CONCLUSION – The NJEA (unintentionally?) aligns with Black Lives Matter
Which is why the NJEA’s decision to align itself with the Black Lives Matter Movement was a mistake.
Was it intentional? Does the NJEA really support all of the radical ideas of the Black Lives Matter Movement?
We hope not, but can’t really say for sure.
What we can say is that the NJEA didn’t need to endorse Black Lives Matter in order to highlight black lives and important black issues.
Will it back off its support at this stage?
There is still time for the union to clarify its stance. After all, the Black Lives Matter at School Week doesn’t start until February 5.
But we won’t hold our breath.
"Rubrics provide students with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Students have concrete directions about what makes a good science project, a good persuasive writing piece, [a good musical composition], etc. ... “
Rubrics to the Rescue
“Issues to Consider: Rubrics Work!”
National Education Association
"… for the most part so shrill and complicated that only those who worship the failings and merits of this composer with equal fire, which at times borders on the ridiculous, could find pleasure in it.”
Review of Beethoven’s ground-breaking Third Symphony Eroica (using a rubric?)
THESIS OF THIS BLOG POST: Rubrics produce exactly what you expect.
If you are a teacher reading this post, you already know what a rubric is. For those not in education, a rubric is basically a set of expectations that we give students for completing an assignment. According to supporters of this form of evaluation, specification of clear expectations is one of its greatest strengths. The kids know exactly what they are supposed to do.
Sounds like a great idea, right?
I see this “positive” aspect of rubrics in a completely different way. For me, that so-called strength is actually a debilitating weakness.
Why do I say this?
Do you know what you get when you tell students exactly what they are supposed to do?
Nine out of ten times you get exactly what you told them to do.
From my 20 years of personal experience as a teacher I can confidently say:
Rubrics discourage creativity.
THE PROBLEM WITH RUBRICS: Two supporting points of view.
On a recent Tom Wood’s Show podcast (I think it was called Dissident Historians), the guest related a story about his experience grading AP history test essays. He was required to follow a rubric which established a grading scale from 0-9. One particular essay (which he still remembers some 20 years later) was not only well-written but was also very unique in its perspective.
He felt that it easily deserved a score of 9. Unfortunately, according to the specifications of the rubric, he was required to assign it a mere 7.
The problem with rubrics identified by Tom’s guest is still here today. In “Why I dislike rubrics in my classes,” Rebecca J. Hogue delves even further into this issue.
Here is what she had to say in her December 10, 2017 article:
“[Rubrics] change the behavior of students – causing them to focus on what is necessary to ‘make the grade’, rather than the internal motivation of excellence for excellence sake. They also take away an aspect of learner creativity – as the students then focus their assignments on meeting the rubric requirements rather than on making an excellent product out of their projects.”
HELD HOSTAGE TO THE RUBRIC: A paragraph example.
Take a look at the following paragraph writing rubric.
Now imagine that one of your students submits a perfectly written paragraph which scores 4 in each category. It has a main idea topic sentence, three supporting sentences, a restatement in the concluding sentence and perfect grammar.
Its all in there.
But guess what?
That paragraph is just about the most boring, unimaginative, run-of-the-mill, unimpressive, plain piece of writing that you have ever encountered in all of your many years as an educator.
It bugs you, but you have no choice. You still have to give this student 12 out of 12 - 100%.
But you know what makes this even worse?
The next paragraph you read is brilliantly written. Its entertaining, funny, engaging, clever … but there are several grammatical errors.
Sticking by the rubric, this particular student only gets 11 out of 12 possible points –a mere 92%.
That’s right – you are being held hostage to the rubric.
THE RUBRIC CONUNDRUM: Creativity is outside the bounds of the expected.
By definition, a rubric cannot properly assess a novel or creative idea.
Think about it.
Rubrics specify expectations – that is why people tout them as a fair way to assess student work. But also by definition, creativity is something outside the bounds of the expected.
History is replete with examples of creative geniuses whose accomplishments ran counter to the accepted norms of the societies in which they lived.
Their achievements were, essentially, acts of defiance against what was expected.
How do you best judge the work of a creative genius?
Should you use a rubric???
Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Eroica, was considered “shrill and complicated” to a 19th century critic’s rubric.
Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring which “caused a riot at its premiere” was considered “the work of a madman” to a 20th century critic’s rubric.
Are you still all in favor of rubrics???
CONCLUSION: Submit the fake rubric to administration …
I can certainly see how rubrics might be useful for grading certain basic assignments. And I can also understand why in her article “Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and Learning” Heidi Goodrich Andrade says that they:
But having admitted that, no one can deny that rubrics restrict creativity by their very nature.
So how do I personally solve this problem in my classroom?
First I make up a fake rubric that I pretend to use. I submit this fake rubric to my administration at the end of the year when they need evidence that I have done authentic assessments in my classroom.
What I really use to grade my student’s work is a checklist of expectations. I show this to them for any given project that we are working on. This way students know the minimum requirements to obtain what I call a decent grade – a B plus.
But then I also let them know that if they want to receive that coveted A or A+, there is another hurdle that they must surmount – creativity.
Only those students who take the time and make the effort to provide that extra brilliance, finesse and flair to their work will make the grade (so to speak).
FINAL COMMENT: Avoid the dust bin of history.
I will finish with one final comment on rubrics.
To paraphrase Leon Trotsky, there is no better way to insure the relegation of most student work to the dust bin of history (i.e. the teacher’s circular file) than by giving students a rubric to follow.
If a teacher is satisfied with only receiving the mundane, banal and expected, he will give his students a rubric to follow.
If he wants potentially exceptional results, he will throw away the “rows, columns and boxes” approach to assessment and emphasize creativity.