“We [teachers] work second jobs because our salaries alone are not sufficient to pay our bills, let alone save for the future,”
Teacher Krista Degerness Ken Caryl Middle School in Littleton, Colo.
“The CPI no longer measures the true increase required to maintain a constant standard of living. This is the main reason that more people are falling behind financially …”
The Chapwood Index
NOTE: This post originally appeared on our Anti-NEA Blog Page. We are reproducing it here because New Jersey teachers are suffering the same fate as teachers throughout the United States as far as loss of purchasing power is concerned.
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (CPI) – A useless statistic?
Back in January we wrote a post about the inability of teachers to make ends meet. It was an analysis of Robert Rosales’ story at NEA Today called Moonlighting:
“Nationwide, many public school teachers … work nights and weekends to supplement the income they receive from teaching … They are simply trying to keep their financial boats afloat.”
An economist quoted by the NEA (Sylvia Allegretto) offered the following explanation for the pay gap:
“… weakening of teachers’ unions, pervasive anti-government sentiment, defunding of public education and the spread of charter and private schools …”
We offered another possibility – inflation.
Some readers disagreed with our conclusion, pointing out that this couldn’t be the issue. After all, if you look at government statistics, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has been pretty tame for years:
But is inflation really as low as the CPI suggests?
Here are two reasons why it is suspect:
THE CHAPWOOD INDEX – A more realistic measure of inflation
A better measure of inflation is available in the Chapwood Index.
“The Chapwood Index reflects the true cost-of-living increase in America. Updated and released twice a year, it reports the unadjusted actual cost and price fluctuation of the top 500 items on which Americans spend their after-tax dollars in the 50 largest cities in the nation.”
As you can see from the chart, inflation is much higher than the government is telling you. Click on the website link to see all 50 cities that are tracked.
CONCLUSION – The real culprit is the government
So maybe it is time that the NEA and other teacher’s unions recognize the real reason why their pay just doesn’t seem to keep up with the times.
Maybe it’s time to stop blaming:
“… weakening of teachers’ unions, pervasive anti-government sentiment, defunding of public education and the spread of charter and private schools …”
The real reason for the sad state of teacher salaries can be found by looking at the Chapwood Index which …
“… exposes why middle-class Americans — salaried workers who are given routine pay hikes and retirees who depend on annual increases in their corporate pension and Social Security payments — can’t maintain their standard of living.”
And one last point about prices.
They don’t just increase because of supply and demand or because “greedy corporations” decide they want to fleece their customers to maximize profits.
That may be what you are taught in the public schools but the truth is more complicated than that.
The Federal Reserve, through its monetary polices, creates inflation by printing dollars. The more you make of something, the less each unit is worth.
Below are two charts which highlight this fact. The first shows the increase in the supply of money since 1920.
Compare this with the second chart below which shows the decline in the purchasing power of the dollar.
The charts speak for themselves, but just in case you need a translator, here is what they are saying:
As money supply has increased, the purchasing power of your dollars have declined.
Liberals and progressives always want to turn to the government to help them right the supposed wrongs of society.
Well, in this case, the government, itself, seems to be the problem.
“When people have nothing left to lose, and they’ve lost everything, they lose it.
Gerald Celente, Author of the Trends Journal
THE PENSION CRISIS: Nicaragua or the United States – it’s the same issue
The problems facing the Nicaraguan pension system are similar to those found in many U.S. states today. It all boils down to one of two possible characterizations:
So how bad is it exactly?
Eight years ago the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had this to say:
“The IMF is demanding reform because it has calculated that without it, the State will have to assume huge costs within 10 to 15 years that will destabilize the economy.”
In other words, the system is severely underfunded.
As for the generosity of the benefits, consider that most citizens …
“… are now able to retire at 60 years of age, though teachers may retire after working to age 55.”
NICARAGUA TRIES TO FIX THE PROBLEM
The Nicaraguan government recently made an attempt to reform its troubled social security system by implementing the following three rule changes:
CITIZENS PROTEST – VICTORY IS WON?
The citizens were having none of this - they took to the streets in violent protest (Molotov cocktails, stone-throwing, etc.).
After 25 people were killed, President Daniel Ortega …
“… decided to cancel planned changes to the Central American country's pension system that have triggered violent protests.”
Victory for the workers!
Ortega scrapped his plans to cut benefits saying …
“… that the government would examine other ways to reform the pension system and improve its financial outlook.”
FORGET PENSION REFORM, WE’LL JUST PRINT MONEY
But what “other ways” are there?
Consider recent Nicaraguan monetary history for some clues as to how the financial outlook of the pension system might be “improved.”
“The Central Bank of Nicaragua, established in 1961, has the sole right of issue of the national currency, the córdoba. “
Let me translate the underlined/bolded section of the above quote:
The bank can print up as much money as it wants to pay its pension bills – after all, it has the “sole right of issue of the national currency.”
So, problem solved, it seems.
Nicaragua doesn’t have to reform its pension system. If it needs money to pay retirees, all it has to do is issue more cash whenever it wants.
BACK TO REALITY
Of course, the more money printed, the less each unit is worth.
Take a look at the following chart of the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar and the Nicaraguan cordoba since 1998:
As of April 23, 2018 you needed 31.12 cordoba to buy 1 dollar. Back in September of 1994 you only needed 6.73.
That is what happens when you just print money out of nothing and issue it – its value declines.
By the way, another name for this is inflation.
The decline was even worse if you go back to 1991:
“Inflation has seriously eroded the value of the nation's money, the córdoba. In 1991, inflation reached 750 percent which made the currency relatively worthless since what had previously cost 1 córdoba cost 750 córdobas.”
CONCLUSION – There’s that predicament again …
The poor condition of many U.S. state pension funds is widely acknowledged.
But, unlike Nicaragua, they can’t print money to “solve” the problem. Instead, states have only three basic choices:
Like a broken record, here we go again - the pension crisis is not a problem, it’s a predicament.
Quoting Chris Martensen of Peak Prosperity:
“A problem can be solved to avoid a certain outcome. A predicament has no solution, only an outcome.”
“…corrupt politicos promised the moon to public employees, and now the fiscal chickens of insolvency are coming home to roost. Public pension obligations are rising so fast that even repeated tax increases can't keep up.”
Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds Blog
We haven’t written about the sorry state of teacher pensions in a while, but when we read Smith’s Blog yesterday, we were inspired once again.
We have been warning teachers at every opportunity not to rely on their expected retirement pensions. Our recommendation has always been for them to save as much money as possible outside of the system, so that they will actually be able to retire and live a lifestyle similar to what they enjoy now.
TYPICAL TEACHER RESPONSE
But almost without fail, every time we post an article dealing with pensions, we get blow-back from teachers claiming something along the lines of …
“You are wrong - the state contractually owes us this money. How can you just give up and accept this? Our unions will not compromise – they will fight for our benefits to the bitter end.”
Well the bitter end is fast approaching because the “Tax Donkeys” who pay our pensions are not going to accept it for much longer.
Of course, the typical teacher response is:
“But we pay into our pensions. It is our money. The taxpayers have nothing to do with it.”
Unfortunately, this is not true. Leaving aside the contribution that the state makes to the pension program, if the money we contribute is invested and doesn’t increase in value to a proper level, there is no way that it will cover our monthly benefit in retirement.
And if it doesn’t, then the taxpayers have to make up for the deficit. As Smith makes clear:
“… pensions can't be paid with borrowed money like Social Security and Medicare; public pension obligations come out of local and state taxes, and as those obligations soar then public services must be slashed and taxes jacked up by annual double-digit increases.”
ABOUT THOSE “TAX DONKEYS”
The way we see it, the term “Tax Donkeys” has two connotations.
First, it refers to taxpayers who are forced to bear the costs of government programs – donkeys are beasts of burden, after all.
But more importantly, it also refers to taxpayer mobility.
“… in the war between public pensioners and the Tax Donkeys, the pensioners can't switch pension programs, but the Tax Donkeys can move to lower-tax states.”
Smith suggests that there will be a
“… Great Migration of the Tax Donkeys from failing cities, counties and states to more frugal, well-managed and small business-friendly locales.”
PREDICAMENT VS. PROBLEM - It is what it is ...
In past blog posts we used the word predicament (rather than problem) to describe the current pension situation. It is important to understand the difference.
Problems have solutions but predicaments don’t – they only have outcomes.
Solutions make people happy: “Yea, we solved the problem!”
Outcomes, not so much: “That really sucks – but it is what it is.”
We can’t predict the specific outcome that will unfold for teachers, but none of the possibilities we envision will be pleasant. Teachers will have to:
Yes, they all really suck ... but it is what it is.
"It's past time to look closely at New Jersey's charter school law and see what needs to be changed in order to ensure that every student in every New Jersey public school has the opportunity and the resources needed to succeed.”
NJEA Spokesman, Steve Baker
"If a [charter] school is high performing and kids are doing really well based on an objective set of facts, count me as all in.”
NJ Governor Phil Murphy
OUR VIEWPOINT: “Student Disparity” is not Contrary to Law and is not Necessarily a Problem.
In a three-part article on his blogsite, the Jersey Jazzman discusses “The Facts About NJ Charter Schools.”
Among other things, he presents solid evidence that the charter schools in NJ have fewer special education students enrolled than the corresponding public schools in the same districts. He calls this imbalance “student disparity.”
Given the clear evidence of this “disparity,” he wants to know:
“Where then, has the state been during the last decade? Why aren't they demanding better from the entire sector?”
The short answer is that state has been doing just what it was supposed to be doing - following the law. It is not “demanding better from the entire sector” because NJ law doesn’t require it.
The Jersey Jazzman also seems to be suggesting that charter schools are intentionally creating this “student disparity.” We don’t agree. Based on our understanding of the relevant statutes, if this were actually true, charter schools would be in flagrant violation of the law.
Does this seem reasonable to you - that charter schools in New Jersey are intentionally breaking the law?
More pointedly, does the Jazzman actually believe this?
Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just thinks that charter school law should be changed to level the playing field – that these schools should be forced to enroll more minority, ELL and special needs students and thus end “student disparity.”
Our contention is that this disparity is a natural result of the collective choices made by parents and students reacting to the failures of the traditional public school system throughout the state.
We also have a prediction that the NJEA and the Jersey Jazzman should consider – Governor Phil Murphy will probably not fix a charter school “problem” that doesn’t necessarily even exist.
JERSEY JAZZMAN’S OPINIONS – Charter Schools Are Breaking the Law?
The Jersey Jazzman’s posts (the three links are provided above) discuss the lack of charter school diversity related to:
We are only going to focus on the first one which the Jazzman describes in the following way:
“NJ charter schools do not enroll as many students with special education needs as public, district schools.”
He presents this statement as an established fact and continues:
“It amazes me that anyone would try to argue this point.”
We agree with him on this. The graphs he uses to illustrate the disparity problem pretty much speak for themselves. There isn’t much you can argue about – the figures are there for anyone to see.
But we don’t agree with some of the other comments that he makes later in Part II of his series.
Criticism of Jazzman #1
For example, he asks the following question:
“Why are so many charter schools not stepping up and enrolling more special needs students?”
The expression “stepping up” implies that charter schools have some kind of obligation to enroll special needs students.
As we will show in the next few sections, not only does the law not require charter schools to “step up,” there is actually terminology in one of the laws that, technically, might actually forbid them to do so.
Criticism of Jazzman #2:
While he does acknowledge that some charters do focus on special needs students, he is clearly upset that all too many do not.
“… but many clearly do not. And why would they, when the state has refused for years to hold them to account?”
The expression “hold them to account” implies that charter schools are evading the law and that the legislature is simply not doing its job to enforce it.
Again, there is nothing in the law which requires the state to “hold them” to anything.
Criticism of Jazzman #3
Finally, the Jazzman claims that charter schools have been
“… engaging in segregation by special education need.”
The use of the word “segregation” suggests that the “student disparity” in charter schools is akin to the situation in the South decades ago when Jim Crow reigned supreme.
As we will detail later, the laws describing the admission and lottery process which charter schools must follow argues against this possibility.
In summary, unless the Jazzman is implying that charter schools are regularly breaking the law, none of these opinions appear to be legitimate.
THE LAW IS THE LAW: N.J.S.A 18A:36A – No requirement for diversity #1
The law governing charter schools is NJSA 18A:36A, also known as the Charter School Program Act of 1995 (last amended August 2011).
The law is pretty clear when it comes to admissions: 18A:36A-7. Student admissions to charter school.
“A charter school shall be open to all students on a space available basis and shall not discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, status as a handicapped person, proficiency in the English language, or any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district”
The only preferences given to enrollment can be found in 18A:36A-8. Enrollment preference
“Preference for enrollment in a charter school shall be given to students who reside in the school district in which the charter school is located … the charter school shall select students to attend using a random selection process.
Now, there is one caveat in this section of the law which may lend some credence to what the Jazzman is saying:
“e. The admission policy of the charter school shall, to the maximum extent practicable, seek the enrollment of a cross section of the community's school age population including racial and academic factors.
But notice the important phrase that we highlight – “to the maximum extent practicable.” This language specifically removes any requirement to enroll according to “academic factors.”
Also, there is some question as to whether a student’s status as special needs is really an “academic factor,” because these students can have high intelligence but are simply limited by a disability of some sort.
THE LAW IS THE LAW: N.J.A.C. 6A:11 – No requirement for diversity #2
The other code that applies to charter schools is N.J.A.C. 6A:11.
According to the section called Lottery - 6A:11-4.5(a):
“Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-8, preference for enrollment in a charter school shall be given to students who reside in the school district in which the charter school is located.”
There is nothing here about requiring the enrollment of special needs students.
But in section 6A:11-4.5(f), there is an interesting reference to special education:
“A charter school may seek approval from the Commissioner to establish a weighted lottery that favors … students with disabilities ...”
“May seek approval” does not mean that it is a requirement – so the charter schools are not breaking any laws when their enrolled populations have fewer students with special needs.
THE LAW IS THE LAW: Guidelines for Access and Equity
In its Guidelines for Access and Equity in New Jersey Charter Schools Updated August 2015 the state even provides a sample application form which states very clearly at the top:
“Charter schools are free, open-enrollment public school that are required by law to serve all students. Charter schools shall be open to all students on a space available basis and shall not discriminate in their admission policies or practices on the basis of intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, special education status, proficiency in the English language, or any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district.”
Notice that the application does not have a section which asks parents to specify their child’s status as far as special needs are concerned. During the application process, charter schools do not know which students are regular or special education.
Further, when a charter school runs a lottery (“the total applicants exceed the spaces available”) to determine who is actually allowed to attend the school, the school is not allowed to use “special education records” as “a condition of enrollment.”
“All students selected in lottery are enrolled contingent upon submission of proof of age, residency, immunization, guardianship, and enrollment in local school district only. · Limited additional information may be requested, but not as a condition of enrollment (e.g. picture ID, former school information, academic and special education records)”
We mentioned this earlier but it’s worth saying again here. Unless Jersey Jazzman is accusing charter schools of breaking the law, the disparity he writes about is simply a result of the way the law was drafted and parent choices about where to send their children to school.
DON’T COUNT ON GOVERNOR MURPHY TO END “STUDENT DISPARITY”
The quotes at the beginning of this blog post indicate that the NJEA thinks there is a problem with charter school law and that NJ Governor Phil Murphy will possibly fix it.
Maybe, but if the NJEA and the Jersey Jazzman think that Murphy is going to adequately address this issue, they may be in for a surprise. Right now we simply don’t have enough information to make that judgement.
We do know that the Governor “has previously expressed concern” about charter schools and has ordered a review of the issue.
But he hasn’t been too vocal about how this will all play out:
“Neither the state Department of Education nor the governor's office answered questions about the review. “
And the governor isn’t necessarily going to rubber stamp what the NJEA wants – he apparently respects both sides of this issue:
“The new governor hears different facts from different sides of the charter school debate and wants to find "one common set of facts" and make sensible decisions. We want to do this, but we want to do it in the right way.”
Finally, as we quoted at the beginning of this post, Murphy did have something positive to say about charter schools which suggests that he will not seek a total legislative overhaul:
"If a school is high performing and kids are doing really well based on an objective set of facts, count me as all in,"
CONCLUSION: NJEA – “It’s all about the kids – or something like that …”
An interesting explanation for the charter school “student disparity” is offered by the Jersey Jazzman, himself. In commenting on why one particular school has a high proportion of white students, he says:
“The much more plausible explanation is that ‘choice’ has led similar families to ‘choose’ the same schools. This lines up with a growing body of evidence that shows that parents rely on their social networks to make navigate a ‘choice’ system.”
Applying this to the state as a whole, perhaps there are fewer special needs students in charter schools because parents simply don’t chose to put them there. Maybe they feel that the larger local public schools will do a better job of meeting the needs of their special children. Or maybe they are just reluctant to try something different.
We honestly don’t know.
But we do know that the “disparity” that the Jersey Jazzman discovered is certainly not in violation of the law.
Of course the laws can be changed to require charter schools to have a mix of population similar to the local public school. This is clearly what the NJEA wants.
“The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, applauded Murphy's decision. It previously called for a moratorium on charter school approvals until changes in the law were considered.”
But is it really because of the children as NJEA spokesman Steve Baker suggests?
"It's past time to look closely at New Jersey's charter school law and see what needs to be changed in order to ensure that every student in every New Jersey public school has the opportunity and the resources needed to succeed.”
Or does the NJEA realize that laws requiring charter school student populations to mirror the population of local public schools will harm them financially?
A study published in 2014 by the University of Arkansas states that charter schools are already underfunded compared to regular public schools. The study …
“… identified a funding gap of 28.4 percent, meaning that the average public charter school student in the U.S. is receiving $3,814 less in funding than the average traditional public school student.”
Of course, this study came out four years ago and it is possible that funding has improved since then. But requiring charter school student populations to be in line with the local public schools could possibly push them over the edge financially.
Wouldn’t that be convenient for the NJEA …
But I’m not sure that parents and students who benefit from the choice to opt out of their failing local school would agree.
“While tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without electricity more than six months after Hurricane Maria and much of the island struggles to resume normalcy, voucher and charter school supporters are swooping in and taking advantage of the crisis …”
NEA Education Votes
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you could never do before.”
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor or Chicago
NEA TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA CRISIS
While we can understand the NEA’s outrage about charter schools taking advantage of the situation in Puerto Rico, its reaction is somewhat hypocritical.
Do you recall how NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia recently used the crisis in Parkland, Florida to further her union’s support for an anti-gun agenda?
If not, you can follow the links below because we wrote about it several times:
Mostly False: The verdict is in on NEA President Garcia’s recent anti-gun comments
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia: Knave or Fool?
“Brave Students?” – An honest analysis of the March 14th Anti-Gun School Walk-Outs
NJEA ALSO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA CRISIS
Closer to home, NJEA President Marie Blistan did the exact same thing to support her own anti-gun agenda.
NJEA President Blistan Channels Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel After Tragic Florida School Shooting
Here is a quote from our February article:
“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:”
You can read her full statement by following the link below:
“NJEA: Latest school shooting demands action.”
CONCLUSION – About that karma …
Taking a page out of Rahm Emanuel’s playbook, NJEA President Marie Blistan clearly used the crisis in Parkland, Florida to further her union’s anti-gun agenda.
Now alternative schools are doing the same thing in Puerto Rico.
No one is happy about the disaster in Puerto Rico and the fact that the crisis there is still being felt by many of its citizens, but at least these alternate schools are possibly helping to alleviate the crisis somewhat.
In any case Ms. Blistan, karma sure is a bitch.
“How did you go bankrupt?"
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
SANTA CRUZ, CA - A microcosm of New Jersey
Santa Cruz, California’s pension is in bad shape.
Why should New Jersey teachers care?
Because it can happen here. That small town on the coast of California is a microcosm of the state of New Jersey.
Consider some interesting parallels (sources and links A-E are listed at the end of this blog post):
PARALLEL #1 - BONDS
Santa Cruz - “Santa Cruz followed the recommendation of the League of Cities and other authorities - issuing a bond to try and ease their own fiscal sinkhole …” A
New Jersey - “New Jersey’s bonded debt grew by nearly $3.2 billion during the past fiscal year” B
PARALLEL #2 – SALES TAXES
Santa Cruz - “city prepares to place a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the June ballot.” A
New Jersey - “Murphy's plan to restore the sales tax to 7 percent [.375 increase].” C
PARALLEL #3 – DEFICITS
Santa Cruz – “projected city general fund deficits slated to reach as high as $23 million by 2022”
New Jersey - “a potential $3.6 billion deficit in about five years ” D
PARALLEL #4 – UNDERFUNDED PENSIONS
Santa Cruz – “state pension investment shortfalls” A
New Jersey – “unfunded public-employee pension and retiree health-benefit liabilities.” B
PARALLEL #5 - INFRASTRUCTURE DECAY
Santa Cruz – “infrastructure decay” A
New Jersey – “We have serious infrastructure problems. ... Time is running out” E
CONCLUSION – Santa Cruz cut benefits and so will NJ
All of these problems are developing during relatively solid economic times – the U.S. economy grew at 2.3% in 2017.
So what happens when the next recession hits?
To deal with the poor financial situation, Santa Cruz has already:
“… shifted some employees into lower-benefit pension plans and hiked employee contributions into the plan.” A
Does anyone honestly think that New Jersey won’t do the same?
Desperate times will call for desperate measures, and NJEA President Marie Blistan's good buddy, Phil Murphy, won’t be so responsive to her union when times get tough.
Be smart and start saving now outside of the system.
Don’t rely solely on your New Jersey public pension for retirement.
A - Santa Cruz Pensions In Critical Condition Amid Fiscal Emergency
B - STATE’S BONDED DEBT SOARS TO NOSEBLEED HEIGHTS: $46.1 BILLION
C - 10 things you absolutely need to know about Murphy budget's tax increases and spending
D - Without action, NJ budget deficit could climb to $3.6B by 2023, Moody's warns
E - How bad are N.J.'s roads and bridges? This bad
OUR POINT OF VIEW
We write fairly often about the sad state of New Jersey teacher pensions. We usually end with a recommendation that teachers start saving on their own outside of the system, because when it comes time to retire, the benefit check might not be what was promised or expected.
Because the title of our blog is Anti-NJEA, some readers mistakenly think that we like this situation – that we want benefits to be cut.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are teachers also, and we want the pension benefits that we were promised just like all teachers in the state do.
The difference is that we are more realistic than most.
UNWELCOME NEWS – NJ is in bad shape.
An article which appeared today at NJ Spotlight contains some information that is worth considering if you still think that your retirement benefits are safe.
Here are some of the highlights that struck us as particularly dire (bold and underline added):
CONCLUSION – Don’t just take our word for it.
Do you still think that your hard-earned benefits are safe?
Still don’t believe us because we run a blog with a biased-sounding title?
Then maybe you will believe Senator Sam Thompson when he talks about your benefits:
“But another commission member, Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex), said the rising pension costs underscore the need to cut the cost of benefits, for both pensions and healthcare.”
Yes, its that bad.
“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.
Think about that for a minute ... the Democracy Enhancement Act...
Did the "Affordable Care Act" (Obamacare) give us more affordable health care?
Is the "Patriot Act" really patriotic when it allows the government to violate the Bill of Rights?
Given the government's track record on naming laws, do you think that the "Democracy Enhancement Act" will really enhance democracy?
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 they appeal to groups of individuals with different perspectives on political issues.
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 NJSLM described it ...
“... as a pre-emptive response to Janus v. AFSCME, a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In case you are not familiar with “Janus,” the NJEA posted an article about this case on its website last November.
As you can see below, the title of that article pretty much reveals the NJEA’s opinion about this case, 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."
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”
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.”
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 think democracy is “enhanced” through this bill are public employee unions like the NJEA.
All other school and government-related organizations (NJSLM, NJAC, NJSBA and NJASCU) have serious reservations.
In addition, Americans for Prosperity, makes a decent case for opposing the act.
So then why is the NJEA so excited about the passage of this piece of legislation?
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.
"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.