Category: Education

Public employees face a day of reckoning in Newark

They want to be the boss men
They want to be the boss men

A Superior Court judge in Newark is expected to hear arguments today in a labor dispute that has implications for the future of all public employee unions.  Although the case deals only with the Newark Teachers Union (NTU),  the central issue—the so-called “management prerogative” of the state—could affect tens of thousands of other public employees.
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A judge will rule on state’s efforts to ignore Newark union contracts

Cerf tells board members his positions are more "moral" and "ethical" than theirs.
Cerf tells board members his positions are more “moral” and “ethical” than theirs.

Superior Court Judge Donald Kessler has scheduled a hearing next Friday—Jan. 29—on efforts by the Newark Teachers Union (NTU) to block the unilateral decision by the Christie Administration to award the school district’s  prescription benefits program to a politically-connected firm with ties to South Jersey political boss George Norcross III.  The hearing in Newark will come just two days before Benecard Services, awarded the no-bid contract by state-appointed schools superintendent Christopher Cerf, is expected to begin processing claims.
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The Christie legacy in Newark’s schools–high absenteeism, poor scores, and budget deficits

Christie's man in Newark: Chris Cerf just brimming with bad news
Christie’s man in Newark: Chris Cerf just brimming with bad news

The state administration of Newark’s public schools, after more than 20 years of controlling the state’s largest school system, last night conceded it had failed to solve chronic student absenteeism—and had produced some of the worst student scores on New Jersey’s statewide tests. Even Christopher Cerf, the former state education commissioner and architect of failed reforms in the state-run system, conceded the district faced “a major crisis” in truancy.
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Cerf’s power grab over contract benefits–is this the end of the Newark Teachers Union?

Cerf: Bye-bye unions?
Cerf: Bye-bye unions?

Here’s the question now in the Newark schools: Will the charm offensive pressed by Christopher Cerf, the governor’s man running the district, overpower the contractual rights of teachers and other school employee unions? Will Cerf’s sweet-talking to the school board and his road show with the mayor result in a major—perhaps fatal–blow to public employees and their bargaining units?
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Watch the “State of the State”? No thanks. Try this instead.

He looks familiar, doesn't he?
He looks familiar, doesn’t he?

Today, Gov. Chris Christie delivered a “State of the State” address, a worse than meaningless media event that serves only his sinking presidential campaign. It will be subjected to equally meaningless punditry laughingly called “analysis” and predictable “he said, she said” comments from state Democrats, most of whom owe their allegiance, if not to the Republican governor, then to the Democratic bosses who sleep regularly–politically, of course–with the governor. Instead, this site will present a counter statement from  Better Choices for New Jersey, a coalition of progressive groups that are generally ignored by the main-stream media. This will be one of the few news sites where these views are given due exposure.
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Newark’s teachers’ union fights back–but will it be supported by members? Or the mayor?

NTU's Abeigon
NTU’s Abeigon

The head of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU), invoking the sacrifices faced  by the union in the past, has called on current members to oppose efforts by the school district’s state managers to make unilateral changes in the school employees’ prescription drug program. John Abeigon’s contention that the unilateral change is a “punch in the face” that must be answered with “action” carries with it the risk union members are simply not up for a fight and will have few political allies in Newark.
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Christie as federal prosecutor: Part One–FBI agents as props carrying empty boxes of “evidence”

emptyboxesThey say it all: Pictures of FBI agents hauling what media outlets in 2009 called “boxes of evidence” away from the home and office of former New Jersey Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria (D-Hudson). The pictures are all anyone—especially Republican voters in New Hampshire—need to know about the personal and professional integrity of presidential candidate Chris Christie. Well, there is one thing more: they need to know those boxes were empty—because the whole raid on Doria’s home and office,  part of a what was termed a “massive crackdown on corruption” was pure theatre, pure fiction, pure lies, pure politics.
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Cerf, the new “decider” in Newark, decides to break the unions

Cerf and Christie
Cerf and Christie

Christopher Cerf, the state-appointed superintendent of the Newark schools, has unilaterally taken actions that threaten the future of collective  bargaining rights of the city’s school employee unions–and maybe even the future of the unions. Cerf announced he was imposing a salary settlement on members of the City Association of School Administrtators (CASA), the union representing school principals,  and he directed that prescription benefits plans be changed without a new agreement with the Newark Teachers Union (NTU).
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Yes, I support teachers and their unions–and I oppose charters. And I don’t get paid to do it.

This site recently posted an article critical of The Star-Ledger for failing to identify fully the author of an op-ed piece praising North Star, a charter school in Newark. The newspaper’s guest writer, who was identified only as a parent, had posted on her Linked-In page that she was employed by the charter school with significant responsibilities. She denied that she was paid by the school and deleted the Linked-In entry. It’s important to note I did not criticize the woman; I called out the newspaper (the same newspaper that, today, thinks it is front page news for a charter school to try to enroll poor students).
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Cerf finds a “tremendous” job done by his staff in dismal test scores

Former state testing director, Bari Ehrlichson, now working in Newark talks about the city's PARCC scores.
Former state testing director, Bari Erlichson, right,  now working in Newark,  talks about the city’s PARCC scores.

The scores on the latest round of statewide tests–the so-called PARCC tests–were bad everywhere, but Newark’s fell far behind New Jersey’s statewide averages, according to the state-operated school district’s release of the first round of results Tuesday night.
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