Monthly Archives: June 2014

Teachers: now more than ever–your union membership matters.

This morning, the SCOTUS ruled–by a 5-4 vote–that Illinois home health care workers cannot be forced to pay dues to a union to which they don’t want to belong.  The court’s conservative majority, led by Justice Alito (who makes no secret of his anti-union sentiments), declared that because the home health care workers are not “full-fledged public employees,” they do not have to abide by laws that require state employees to contribute financially to a union.

While today’s decision is certainly a blow to organized labor, many union leaders and members are relieved that for the time being, the 1977 Abood decision that grants states the right to require workers to pay union dues remains intact.  But given that unions are under attack in all parts of the country (there’s even a group of CA teachers who are suing to stay out of their union), it’s very likely that the Supreme Court will consider the Abood decision again in the near future.  Alito calls Abood itself “questionable” and “anomalous” in his opinion on Harris v. Quinn, but Justice Kagan, who wrote the dissent, sharply disagrees.  And if Abood is ultimately overturned in another ruling, the United States would essentially be a right-to-work country.

Anyone unfamiliar with “right to work”–a ridiculous misnomer, I should note, so don’t be fooled for a second by this title–should read up on why it’s “wrong for everyone.” (The fact that right-to-work is supported by the likes of the Koch brothers should be red flag number one.)  Consider this report from the Economic Policy Institute, which concludes, among other things, the following:

  • Right-to-work laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.

  • Right-to-work laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.

  • By cutting wages, right-to-work laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries.

Essentially, right-to-work is union busting. Plain and simple. Right now, there are 24 right-to-work states in the country.

So given the scope of the Harris decision (which, indeed, is much narrower than it could have been), now’s as good a time as any to revisit the virtues of organized labor and the reasons it’s in workers’ best interests to belong to a union. It’s certainly true that there’s great variation across the country in terms of union strength, effectiveness, and leadership, but all public workers should use Harris v. Quinn as an opportunity to renew our country’s interest in promoting strong unions, to which so many workers owe so much–because in doing so, we will strengthen our shrinking middle class and improve the quality of services that virtually all Americans depend on.

Why do we even need a push for stronger unions in the first place? Well, first and foremost, people have long forgotten the virtues of organized labor–and the benefits most workers enjoy that were fought for and earned by unions.  Minimum wage? weekends? sick leave? workers’ comp? child labor laws? etc. etc. etc.? Meh.  Now, public workers who want that stuff are lazy and greedy.  (But private-sector people who get such benefits deserve them, dammit!)

But another concern, and one I’m certain is shared by union leaders everywhere, is that too few people understand the many and diverse ways in which union membership benefits them.  On the national level, for example, many teachers are unhappy with what they perceive to be complacency–and compromise with the forces working against public education–on the part of union leadership.  Many educators have fundamental problems with the Common Core State Standards, an initiative that both the NEA and AFT continue to endorse, and that’s enough to tempt some union members to jump ship. More locally, teachers who don’t require immediate union representation (that is, they don’t “get in trouble” at work and don’t understand the workings of local organizing) can be apathetic to or even ignorant of what the union’s larger and more fundamental role is.  (I’ve heard, over the course of my career, too many teachers who were unhappy with the results of just one particular bargaining agreement say, “I don’t even want to pay union dues anymore.”)

These kinds of statements are so incredibly shortsighted, and they reveal one thing: unions need to aggressively and consistently remind members, who are often too overwhelmed by and preoccupied with the ever-increasing demands of their teaching positions, of what their membership dues get them.  This happens in a broad sense all the time, since an association’s daily workings center around advocating for its members and the children they serve, but more work needs to be done at the local level to engage and involve members. I get the sense that outside of contract negotiations and disputes with administrators and local boards of education, some union members don’t understand or appreciate the governance structure, function, or activities of their associations.  (I suspect that this is the case in other types of unions, too.)

I’m a proud member of the New Jersey Education Association, one of the strongest and best-organized teachers’ unions in the country.  I realize that not all educators are fortunate enough to be represented by such a powerful  and influential organization (NJ students consistently perform among the top in the nation, and I attribute much of that to our union’s advocacy for teachers, students, and public education in general), but that’s what makes it even more important that workers all over the country act in their own interests and organize in solidarity.

So for anyone who has trouble seeing beyond the work unions do at the local level, here’s a much-abridged overview of what strong teachers’  unions do for their members–beyond the stuff we see in our buildings every day. (I’m obviously using NJEA as an example because that’s the organization to which I belong.) Here goes:

  • They promote and showcase student and teacher achievement–especially during a time when our governor labels children living in poverty in New Jersey as “failures.” (The Communications Division is responsible for publications, PR, and media relations; it even produces a weekly television program to highlight student/teacher accomplishments.)
  • They provide extensive (and I do mean extensive) professional development opportunities to help teachers serve their students the best they can.
  • They made sure that tenure reforms were fair, while still ensuring that ineffective teachers can be dismissed more efficiently.  (See the proposed changes to tenure that didn’t make it to the final bill here because of NJEA’s interventions and influence.)
  • They’re working hard to monitor and ensure that the teacher evaluation models (Danielson, Stronge, McRel) districts have implemented are are being applied fairly and consistently.
  • The Government Relations Division tracks and influences legislation concerning public schools, teachers, funding decisions, special education law, coordinates member testimony before legislators, etc. Staff from all divisions, in concert with other unions from across the state, are actively and aggressively fighting Chris Christie’s illegal pension abuses.
  • They consistently seek to improve working conditions (yes, we need tenure, which is under attack now), which directly affect students’ learning conditions. (Ever read accounts of teaching conditions/salaries/student learning environments in Right-to-Work states? Explains why highly-unionized states boast better student academic achievement.)
  • NJEA’s UniServ network operates out of 22 regional offices, and provides services–through field reps and consultants–to members in many different capacities.
  • NJEA’s elected leaders, who are active educators, advocate on behalf of the Association’s members. The Association also has countless committees that are made up of members who oversee the workings of the union.
  • They devote a great deal of effort to forming and fostering community relationships, because community involvement is integral to the success of any school system.

If you want more specific information on any of this, or to see all the stuff I couldn’t fit onto this list, visit the NJEA website.  

Members of unions from across the country: does your union do these things–and do them well?

If so, great. But if not, then do something about it. (Yes, YOU!)

It’s becoming increasingly evident that lots of teachers’ union members across America–and in direct response to the corporate takeover of our public school system that’s driven by non-educators–are finding their voices and fighting for their rights and the rights of the students they serve.  In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of more progressive, aggressive, outspoken union leaders (special shout-out to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who’s considering a mayoral run against reformy public-school-destroyer Rahm Emanuel)–and I have no doubt that today’s SCOTUS ruling will spark an even greater interest in strengthening unions and encouraging educators to demand the conditions they know are best for themselves and the students and communities they serve.

So in the face of the Harris v. Quinn decision: organize.  No defeatist attitudes. Advocate. Be loud. Show your community, and anyone else who will listen, that the work you do is valuable–and that your interests are also the interests of your students.

If you don’t agree with your union leadership: tell them.  Explain why.  Begin a dialogue. Suggest solutions. And vote for union leaders who represent what you believe is right, because they’re the ones who will be tasked with defending the Abood decision when its constitutionality comes into question again. (And it will.)

Otherwise, don’t complain: because abandoning the labor movement upon which so much of our country was built–and from which so many Americans benefit every day–is not the answer.

And above all else, remember this: even if the Supreme Court of the United States rules against organized labor, YOU still have the power to be a proud union member.  No one, not even the SCOTUS, can take that away from you.  





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About that Action News coverage of Camden’s LEAP Academy Charter School…

Last night, Philadelphia’s Channel 6 Action News, a local ABC affiliate, featured a story on Camden’s LEAP Academy University Charter School–since “for a decade straight, 100 percent of their students have earned their diploma and 100 percent are heading to college.”  The story, which is linked on 6abc’s Facebook page, sparked a lively discussion about the merits of and problems with charters in Camden and beyond.  And while I certainly don’t have a problem acknowledging the successes of students and teachers anywhere, the anti-teacher, anti-public school comments–and the charters-are-far-superior claims that stem from this LEAP story (and, more largely, are part of charter school rhetoric in general)–need to stop.

So let me preface this post with a sincere congratulatory message to the students and teachers at LEAP, as their accomplishments certainly should be recognized and celebrated.

With that said, though, it’s important to point out that while LEAP might seem like another “miracle” charter school on the surface (from the LEAP website: “LEAP Academy’s success has been nothing short of miraculous“)–and Action News’s reporting certainly perpetuates that myth–one need only look superficially at the demographics of the students LEAP attracts, the school’s involved admissions process (which includes an extensive parent contract agreement), and its performance data to understand the differences between it and traditional public schools.

Who, exactly, LEAPs into LEAP? Charter School Admissions:

Most charter defenders argue that such schools admit anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, special needs, etc.and that all students are given equal opportunities to enroll because admission is determined through a blind lottery system. Here’s the school’s founder, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago (more on her in the links below):

“They [LEAP students] are children from the city, they come from the same neighborhood everybody comes and it really shows we can break a cycle of poverty every time you graduate a child and send them to college.”

However, the lottery process alone serves to segregate the population before children even walk through a charter school’s doors–and anyone who has paid attention to the ways charters work (or anyone who has even the slightest bit of common sense)–should know that.  As Mother Crusader notes here, “Charters like LEAP with a lottery system, attract only the most motivated parents, who must fill out packets of information and sign Parent Partnership Agreements. The children of these parents are therefore more motivated, successful students.”

And since everyone knows the profound role parents play in students’ academic success, it goes without saying that students whose parents take an interest in their children’s education have an advantage over their peers who might have absentee parents, sick parents, abusive parents, parents who are too crippled by the effects of poverty to have the wherewithal to even be aware of the charter lottery process, etc.  This, obviously, is a generalization, and there are certainly exceptions; yet any teacher in any school (or anyone who knows anything about education, for that matter) will likely attest to as much.

Another issue: I certainly can’t speak to individual students’ intentions, but I think it’s safe to say that children who have no interest in or intention of going to college probably wouldn’t go out of their way to enroll in a school that touts its “college-preparatory curriculum” and its “breakthrough model that guarantees students a successful transition to higher education.” So simply because it’s a college-preparatory school, LEAP serves a different population than the diverse populations in the Camden public school system.  (That’s certainly not to say that students in traditional public schools don’t have college aspirations, because that’s obviously not true.  But as we all know, public schools are responsible for educating all children, regardless of whether they plan to attend college or not–and we should always be cognizant of just how much our society depends on services that don’t require workers to have a college degree. Such services–and the people who provide them–are supremely important.)

Demographics are also important to consider.  While LEAP does serve a high percentage of economically-disadvantaged students, it serves very few special education and LEP (limited English proficiency) students: LEAP’s special education students make up only 6.2% of the school’s population (for frame of reference, Camden High has a 38% special education population), and only 3.6% of LEAP students are LEP.

And what about the 100% college acceptance rate?

It’s very exciting that all of LEAP’s graduates are headed to college, and even better that many of them received scholarship money to help defray the rapidly-rising cost of higher education.  But what, specifically, weighs most heavily in a college’s decision to admit or reject an applicant?  Certainly admissions officers consider various measures, but as more and more experts question the validity of standardized test scores–state tests, the SATs and ACTs, for instance–more and more universities are relying more heavily on a student’s grades in high school to guide admissions decisions.

And that must be a relief for the folks at LEAP, which boasts a 100% college acceptance rate, because LEAP students produce SAT scores that are significantly lower than state-average (and even peer-average) scores. According to the New Jersey School Performance Report (the data published here is from 2011-2012), the composite SAT score for LEAP students was 1,137, which is much lower than the state’s average of 1,504, and no students scored above the state average of 1550–yet every LEAP graduate was accepted to college.


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It is certainly admirable that 98% of LEAP students take the SATs.  But are these results “miraculous”–and to the extent that we can use them to claim that charters outperform their public counterparts?

Also worth noting is that LEAP, a school that touts its ability to prepare students for “college and career,” only offers two Advanced Placement courses: AP Biology and AP English Language (not Literature, the more commonly-offered of the two) and Composition.  And of the students who took the test for one of these courses, says this chart on the NJ DOE website, none scored a 3 or better (a 3 is considered “passing”) on those AP exams:

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So if LEAP students–on the whole–struggle to perform well on the SATs and what limited AP exams they’ve taken, on what basis are they all admitted to colleges?

Well, that brings us back to the issue of grades. One supremely important component (and certainly, college consider extracurricular activities, demographics, volunteerism, etc.) in college admissions decisions is a student’s GPA.  Interestingly, according to reports from several ex-LEAP teachers with whom I’ve spoken, “nobody is allowed to fail” at LEAP–primarily so the school can retain its 1000% graduation rate.  That’s right, folks: one teacher I spoke with reported that teachers are routinely directed by administrators to change students’ grades–even for students who had done virtually no work–to ensure that no students “fail.” The same teacher also decried the high rate of teacher turnover at LEAP, which creates great instability for the students and prevents teachers from getting the experience they need to perfect their crafts.  See Mother Crusader and Jersey Jazzman links below for information on LEAP teachers’ salaries, their experience (and how readily GB-S dismisses teachers), their merit pay contract, etc.

One reason graduation rates are poor measures of school effectiveness is that virtually any school that wants to can graduate all of its students simply by assigning each a passing grade for every subject–and poof: 100% graduation rates! (While there’s obviously no public documentation of this practice at LEAP, it’s is an issue I’ll address more specifically in another post. Again, I’m not minimizing the dedication or collective efforts of LEAP students–but reports from different sources of compulsory grade inflation are certainly troubling and should be investigated.)

For anyone paying attention, none of this should come as a surprise, as LEAP, led by Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, has a long-documented history of questionable practices. In July of 2012, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that LEAP Academy failed to make AYP for the previous two years. When did such failures become characteristic of “miracle schools”? (As an aside: Camden’s City Invincible charter, a locally-run school, was forced to close–seemingly arbitrarily–in just its second year of operation and without any chance to improve its scores. Read more here from Rutgers professor Stephen Danley.)  

So there are a few fundamental questions we should consider here:

  • What accounts for LEAP’s “miraculous success”?  Is it test scores? (Clearly not.) Or is it high graduation/college acceptance rates in spite of comparatively low test scores?  (Interestingly, charter cheerleaders most frequently cite low test scores as the very reason we need charters–because traditional public schools are “failing.”)
  • If we establish schools whose primary goal is to send students to college (“LEAP Academy offers a college preparation curriculum for all students”), is it fair to acknowledge that such a school has little or no interest in educating students who might choose, say, a vocational or military career?
  • If the answer to the above question is YES, then is such a school effectively devaluing the ambitions of students who pursue paths other than college?  (And how can such a school claim to be “miraculous” and more successful than traditional public schools who must accept and accommodate all students?)
  • And if the answer to that same question is YES, then isn’t the inherent implication here that students who choose not to go to college hinder the academic progress–or the educational opportunities–of those who do in a heterogeneous setting?
  • How much of a school’s success depends on parent involvement?  (In other words, for example–absent the commitment from parents as per the LEAP Parents Academy Partnership Contract, what would the school’s results look like? And could traditional public schools enforce such a contract?)
  • Finally, is the best way to claim “success” to separate the kids who want to learn and go to college from those who don’t?


Again, I wish nothing but the best for the students and teachers at LEAP. Indeed–we should celebrate their accomplishments. But until we can have an honest discussion about the segregation, motives, and ultimate purpose of charter schools like LEAP, can we please stop with the misleading (at best) “miracle school” rhetoric? PLEASE? Because the bottom line is this: students, teachers, and schools of all kinds have great successes every day and in all different ways.  That charters throw around the term “miracle school” recklessly, and for the sake of undermining true public education, is underhanded, disingenuous, and divisive–especially when their “miracle school” labels are born from deceptive and questionable practices and come at the expense of public schools and the children they serve.

For further reading: here are some links to more information on LEAP and Gloria Bonilla-Santiago.  Many thanks to NJ bloggers Jersey Jazzman–whose extensive coverage of LEAP has consistently called the “miracle school” label into question–and Mother Crusader, whose post is linked above and again here.  There’s some overlap in content here, but, well, that should tell us something: that lots of people are on to LEAP’s supposed miraculous miracles.

  1. LEAP founder Gloria Bonilla-Santiago pays her boyfriend $95k to serve as chef at LEAP–after paying a penalty of $151k to end a contract with the school’s former food service company.  (For realsies. Taxpayer money, folks.)
  2. Lawsuit is another blow to Camden’s LEAP Academy (allegations that Gloria Bonilla-Santiago “routinely demanded that [A LEAP employee] perform work on her home while on LEAP Academy time and using LEAP Academy, tools, equipment and supplies.”)
  3. Charter School “Success”: There’s ALWAYS a Catch
  4. Hypocrisy Runs Wild in NJ (more on that pesky AYP and LEAP’s failure to meet it for two years)
  5. File Under: “Shameless” (a stunning compilation of LEAP/Bonilla-Santiago offenses)
  6. The Real Charter Agenda: Union Busting? (remember that charter cheerleaders claim their schools are successful because many charter teachers aren’t unionized)
  7. LEAPing to Conclusions; Are Charters Our Only Hope, Or Only Hype? (Mother Crusader’s look at demographics; performance; and teacher (in)experience, pay, and turnover at LEAP)
  8. NJ Charter School Circus: LEAPin’ Lizards!
  9. CHARTER SCHOOL SCANDALS: LEAP Academy University Charter School
  10. Charter School Scandal in NJ  (Diane Ravitch links to Jersey Jazzman)
  11. LEAP Update (re: IRS revoking LEAP’s tax-exempt status)
  12. LEAP Academy ends basketball episode (“LEAP violated laws that govern charter programs by giving admissions preference to out-of-state athletes over Camden students.”)

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Dystopian education reform: Big Brother is watching in Belleville, NJ

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Rally for Belleville–6/23/14; photo from NJEA

There’s certainly no dearth of dystopian literature in the world, mostly because the idea of an oppressive ruling class controlling powerless citizens is compelling–and extraordinarily frightening.  Typically, people associate dystopias with governments, as is the case in Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four; however, as people all over the country–and more locally, those in Belleville, NJ–are learning, dystopian qualities are pervading our public schools and masquerading as “education reform.”

A quick primer for anyone unfamiliar with the characteristics of a dystopian society:

  • An individual ruler (Orwell’s Big Brother, for example) or a powerful ruling group (a corporation, for example) controls nearly all aspects of society
  • Information is censored and controlled by the ruler or ruling group
  • The ruler or ruling group imposes ridiculous mandates, rules, and regulations on citizens
  • Citizens are under constant surveillance
  • Citizens live in fear, primarily because dissent and individual thought are punished
  • Human characteristics are stripped from citizens; computers, robots, or other kinds of technology are often favored
  • Subservience, conformity, and mindless work are valued and rewarded.

Though there are many different types of dystopian literature, most works in the genre are meant to warn us of the consequences of unchecked power and societal imbalances.

So how does this apply to education reform?

On the most basic level, consider this piece, written by the father of school-age children, about Divergent (a 2011 Veronica Roth novel, although the article refers to the film that was released in March of this year) as an “education dystopia”:

The central feature of “Divergent” is that children are given aptitude tests that sort them by virtues, sometimes separating them from their families. These sorting tests are nothing new in popular young adult fiction.

But “Divergent”, intentionally or not, puts high-stakes testing at the center of the educational dystopia it portrays. As in present-day reality, testing takes time away from classroom instruction and occurs on a single day. The “Divergent” tests measure aptitude, not comprehension, and serve mainly to sort students according to immutable traits into one of five factions “to determine who we are and where we belong.” In schools, we use standardized tests to figure out whether someone is “college or career ready.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Standardized tests certainly serve to depersonalize the educational experience for both students and teachers, and the social stratification they create is characteristic of dystopian societies. But we also cannot ignore the corporate influence in education; the oligarchs in our society who use their wealth to impose rules and regulations on people who they’d consider to be socially-inferior; the conformity that advocates of education reform promote (“Whole Brain Teaching“?  Creepy chanting?); the culture of fear reformers are instilling in teachers and students (yes, in England, too!); and the ridiculous, crippling mandates being imposed on schools from the federal and state levels.

In New Jersey, the Belleville board of education has taken the concept of an educational dystopia to a scary new level. Last year, the district earmarked $2 million for state-of-the-art security systems in the district’s schools so it could monitor the comings and goings of students and staff:

The surveillance apparatus will enable district security to monitor activity throughout the school, including any classroom at any time. Students and staff will be issued radio frequency identification cards that can trace their whereabouts in and out of school. The board notes that such cards would aid in finding a lost kindergartner. Staff members are concerned about their privacy while carrying the card to and from work. The board approved a nearly $2 million contract with Clarity Systems Consulting Group for the product.

(One thing worth adding: jobs associated with the project were offered to family members of district officials after contracts were finalized.  Nice.)

And while few people would argue the virtues of keeping students and staff safe, parents and teachers in Belleville have been questioning the board’s motives, financial decisions, and priorities:

More than 150 people packed the former media center and current senior class cafeteria at Belleville High School, many to take the board to task for its perceived shortcomings, including: alleged political retaliation against its faculty and staff; inadequate supplies; overcrowded classrooms; and unnecessary security system upgrades. They also pleaded with the district’s governing body to work with its teachers and parents for the good of its students.

The Belleville board of education maintains that these security measures are necessary to protect children and staff, yet it seems that their “surveillance” system’s primary purpose is to tracks students’ and staff members’ every move. Union surveys reveal that teachers feel there’s a culture of intimidation in Belleville, and according to NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan, “BEA members are being mistreated, vilified, and denigrated.” As Jersey Jazzman reports, even the teachers’ lounge is equipped with a camera and listening devices. (Does anyone remember Watergate?  Nineteen Eighty-Four? The Firm?! Any other work of literature or example from history that involves this kind of surveillance?  Abuse of power.  The end.)

In recent months, the Belleville Education Association has filed unfair labor practice complaints and grievances in response to the board’s irresponsible and capricious actions; the board, in turn, suspended BEA president Mike Mignone–and brought him up on ridiculous tenure charges–for speaking about the injustices he was witnessing. In short, the district is in what the New Jersey Education Association describes as “constant crisis.” (Read here for Jazzman’s great coverage of the Belleville situation and last night’s rally to support Mignone.) 

As is the case in Belleville, dissent is punished in a dystopian society–specifically so the ruling class can keep its underlings in their place and continue to push its agenda without opposition. In general, the current education reform movement reeks of creepy class differentials that are characteristically dystopian–and it’s clear that there certainly is a powerful, wealthy ruling class making decisions about public education. (Local control? Lol.)

And as union members from all over the state proclaimed last night, the situation in Belleville is a glaring example of the reason educators need tenure.  With job protections removed, students’ educational experiences suffer–mostly because their teachers are at the mercy of  people who abuse their power at the expense of kids.  Teachers who oppose the powers that be and stand up for what’s right are fired without cause, and the instability that results hurts kids and public education in general.

David Coleman wants us to read more informational texts and less fiction, and perhaps this is why: because literature exposes the flaws in our society and serves to warn us of the repercussions of allowing those flaws to go unchecked.  The moral of the story here?  Learn from Belleville–and fight against the powers that seek to destroy public education.

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Chris Christie and friends: New Jersey’s oligarchs

The members of Chris Christie’s publicity staff are brilliant.  After all, they were able to convince citizens of New Jersey–many of whom voted against their own self-interests–to reelect the governor by an overwhelming margin in 2013.

In fact, Chris Christie felt that members of his publicity staff were so brilliant that he awarded 27 of them raises which averaged 23% and totaled over $338,000.  (Thank you to The Record for filing a lawsuit to obtain this information after the Christie administration refused your Open Public Records Act request.)

That’s right: Chris Christie, the governor who’s so “fiscally responsible” that his state is “dead last in the nation in terms of its fiscal solvency,” has decided that it’s okay to give raises of up to 50% to his friends–while continuing to vilify public workers and raid their pension funds to promote his own social and political agendas. (Use $82 million in pension funds to subsidize Pearson, the testing corporation that’s contributing to the ruin of public education in America? Oversee “‘alternative investments‘ of pension money with hedge funds and other high-fee money managers who pocketed a combined $1.2 billion in fees that would otherwise have gone into the state’s pension funds over the past year alone”? Why not!)

Last week, Michael Drewniak justified Christie’s staffers’ raises by saying that “Changes in salary in the main reflect changes in position, promotions, or expanded job responsibilities for these staff members.”

That’s strange; public workers all over the state have also seen “changes in position” (how many workers have been shuffled around repeatedly because of budget cuts, for example?) and “expanded job responsibilities” (how much more work has the new, unproven, flawed teacher evaluation system–and the transition to Common Core and PARCC–resulted in, for example?), yet many of those same workers have seen steady decreases in their take home pay as a result of increased pension and benefit contributions and salary caps.  Still others have been without contracts for months–or even years. Marie Corfield sent Governor Christie a letter this morning reminding him of as much.  (Wonder if he’ll respond!)

Yes, Chris Christie has made it his mission to break the public sector in every way he can–and nobody should be surprised that now he’s moving on to everyone else who’s not part of the 1%. Example: he recently announced plans to delay $395 million in property tax relief for disabled and senior residents of the state–because, you know, New Jersey just can’t afford such a payout right now. And it’s the public workers’ faults, of course! (Who cares that they’ve contributed to their pensions consistently while governors neglected the fund for years?  Who cares that 75 cents of every pension dollar paid comes from investment returns and not taxpayers?)

So the immediate question, right now, is this: when do taxpayers say “enough”?

Aren’t the six credit downgrades–and their implications–enough? Isn’t the ongoing attack on public workers enough? Isn’t the harm Christie is doing to public education and public school students enough? Isn’t Bridgegate enough?  Isn’t the taxpayer-funded investigation Chris Christie hired his friends to conduct enough? Aren’t the Sandy relief fund scandals enough?  Aren’t the illegal pension abuses–and violations of pay-to-play regulations–enough? Isn’t the decision to run an unnecessary special election–which cost taxpayers $12 million–enough? Aren’t the excessive raises Christie’s awarding to members of his inner circle enough?  Isn’t the cronyism enough? Isn’t Christie’s blatant favoritism to the 1%–at the expense of New Jersey’s workers–enough?

Yes.  It’s all enough. And many people, even the ones who supported Christie at the polls two times, are starting to realize it.  Some are even calling for a recall election. One problem: New Jersey’s recall law presents overwhelming challenges that make it highly unlikely Christie will be recalled–and he knows it.  So for a man whose word means nothing and whose morals are clearly unsound, this all means one thing: he has free license to keep vilifying and taking advantage of public workers unless someone with more authority than he has forces him to stop doing so.  (You remember, just like that time when the New Jersey Supreme Court forced him to fund the urban schools he was intent on starving.)

Here’s how you can encourage that process: sign the petition on NJEA’s website that insists the pension board file suit against Christie for his illegal pension abuses.  Call or write to your legislators.  Get your friends, family, and neighbors to do so, too.

Send Chris Christie the message that New Jersey’s citizens won’t tolerate a governor who uses taxpayers’ money to enrich the 1%, attacks public workers, breaks promises, and breaks the law.


Christie said his wife is urging him to get new suits [because of his recent weight loss].
“But I’m on a budget,” Christie said. “I gotta be careful, you know?”

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