New school year, smaller paychecks for many NJ teachers

The 2015-2016 academic year is underway, and New Jersey’s teachers returned to their classrooms to continue a long-standing tradition of excellence: the state’s public school system has once again been ranked, based on a variety of measures, among the top in the nation.

But unfortunately, many of New Jersey’s public school teachers were also greeted with very bad news when they opened their first paychecks since June: their take-home pay had gone down. Significantly.

Even worse: if the State of New Jersey continues its current financial path, which includes pension/benefit reforms that affect public workers but fail to set limits on the rising cost of health care, it’s very possible that many teachers in the Garden State might never again see raises. Ever. In their careers.

A little background:

In a 2010 briefing paper for the Economic Policy Institute, Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations professor Jeffrey Keefe addressed the “myth of the overcompensated public employee” and concluded that public employees were actually “slightly undercompensated” compared to their private-sector counterparts.

In general, according to Keefe, public workers receive a “higher portion of their compensation in the form of employer-provided benefits,” and as such, public school employees have traditionally accepted salaries lower than those they could secure in the private sector because those employees paid less for health care and pensions than their private-sector counterparts. 

Further, Keefe says that “education level is the single most important earnings predictor”–and yet in 2010, U.S. public employees with Master’s degrees earned an average of $33,655 less in salary than private-sector workers with the same level of education–and $36,621 less in total compensation when benefits were factored in. (The discrepancy was similar for workers with bachelor’s degrees, which are required of all certificated teachers in the sate. Nearly half of New Jersey’s teachers have master’s degrees.)

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Most relevant to this discussion: the discrepancy Keefe observed in public- vs. private-sector compensation existed before Chris Christie took office in New Jersey in 2010.

And it got worse pretty quickly.

Once on the job, Governor Christie instituted a series of reforms–supported by members of both parties in the Assembly and Senate–which are causing hundreds of thousands of public workers immediate and forthcoming financial hardship:

  1. In 2010, Christie imposed a 2% limit on property-tax increases by municipalities. The cap greatly limited potential future salary increases for public workers, and also coincided with state budget cuts to school funding.
  2. The following year, Christie–again with bipartisan support–signed Chapter 78, P.L. 2011, a law that forced public employees to make increased contributions to their pensions and health benefits and suspended cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. (Public workers all over the state were in various years of previously-negotiated agreements when Chapter 78 was signed into law, but many are entering the fourth and final “tier” of increased contributions–and are paying up to 35% of their health care premiums this year.)
  3. Chapter 78 also stipulated that the state would be required to make increased contributions–over the course of seven years–to the its ailing pension system (the one that, according to a 2014 report, “ranks 95th in generosity among country’s 100 largest plans). However, Chris Christie categorically refused to fund the pension system in accordance with his own law, and then celebrated when the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the part of the law that required increased state contributions was unconstitutional (and, therefore, unenforceable).

So what does all this mean?

In terms of health benefits and in accordance with Chapter 78, public workers have been making increasing contributions to their premiums according to a sliding scale that is based on salary (so workers who earn more money pay more for the same coverage that costs lower-earners less–a formula that NJ Spotlight described as a “progressive income tax”), and while Chapter 78 caps employee contributions at 35%, Christie and his fellow Republicans refuse to set limits on healthcare prices. As healthcare costs increase, so too will employee contributions. (The suspension on collective bargaining of healthcare ended July 1 of this year, so benefits can once again be subject to negotiations once current agreements expire.)

Further, a nearly year-old analysis by NJ Spotlight showed the following:

  • The cost of New Jersey public employee health insurance coverage is the 3rd highest in the nation,
  • Most NJ public workers are paying more than the national average for state government workers,
  • NJ public workers who choose individual coverage pay more than government workers in any other state in the country, and
  • NJ public workers who choose family coverage pay the 10th-highest premium in the country.

With regard to pensions, despite increased worker contributions, New Jersey’s pension system remains underfunded by nearly $50 billion–and, according to a study by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, the state’s record of funding its pension system is the worst in the country. (Moody’s Investors Services attributed the state’s record ninth credit downgrade to the unfunded pension liability, yet Chris Christie bragged about his pension reforms on Meet the Press last weekend.)

Essentially, the discrepancy between public- and private-sector wages that Jeffrey Keefe reported in 2010–before the 2% cap on property taxes and Chapter 78–has widened in recent years, and many public employees are seeing steady decreases in their take-home pay even as the cost of living continues to rise. To add insult to injury, those same workers–who have had no choice but to contribute hundreds of dollars from each check to the pension system that a string of NJ governors have categorically failed to fund–face the prospect of financial collapse in retirement.

Meanwhile, Chris Christie–whose systematic attack on public workers and egregious pension failures have turned hundreds of thousands of middle-class families upside-down–continues to blame workers and their unions for New Jersey’s financial woes. (Let’s not forget that he referred to public school teachers as “gluttons.“)

In this climate–and also considering that Christie refuses to fully fund schools, promotes evaluating teachers based on their students’ scores on flawed standardized tests, and endorses private management of schools that receive public funds–it is difficult to imagine that the best and brightest college graduates will choose to pursue careers in teaching. And if they don’t, how long can New Jersey expect to have public schools that consistently rank among the top in the nation?

It’s time for the citizens of New Jersey to vote, en masse, to protect public workers, the middle class, and essential services in the state–and to disrupt the current trend that favors corporations and Wall Street executives at the expense of everyday citizens.


 

Public school teachers: please leave a comment below with specific information about how Chapter 78 has affected your take-home pay. You don’t need to use your name.

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60 Comments

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60 responses to “New school year, smaller paychecks for many NJ teachers

  1. My local is one of the few in the state that have successfully bargained out of Chr. 78, so the majority of us are seeing a pay increase this contract. But because of some loopholes in Chr. 78 health benefits tiering structure, a small number of our members are taking home less than last year.

  2. Jennifer

    These past 2 years have been extremely tough. This September was quite a shock when I saw my take-home pay. I am making at least $400 less now than four years ago. I though my pay was supposed to increase each year. Unbelievable!
    Of course we’re basically forced to get the health insurance. I can’t let my family have less than adequate health insurance!

  3. Mary

    My paycheck is about $89 less than my last one in June. Pension Contribution is up about $5, Membership Dues are up $1.25 (increase in NJEA dues, not local dues, Benefits Contribution is up almost $110, and Medicare, FICA and Federal tax is down slightly (due to the fact that I have larger deductions/less take home pay). While $89 may not seem like a big deal in a paycheck (to some it may be), it is a hit of about $1800 take home in a year.

  4. Maggie

    I am making $39 less a paycheck than last year and had already seen a decrease in my pay last year from the year prior. I am concerned that I will no longer be able to afford to work in public education and be forced to return to the private sector to a job I was not as happy in as this one because my job in public education may not allow me to keep my home and prepare for my children to go to college.

  5. Joyce

    Small raise was lost quickly to increased deductions. Sad state of affairs as I approach retirement, with no promise of a return on all the pension money that I’ve contributed.

  6. Sally smith

    All of the above people are complaining about nothing. Try running your own small business. We pay all of our healthcare which is $500 per MONTH per adult, no sick days, no pension, no paid vacations, no cost of living increases, and have to buy all of the goods we sell, and business insurance. If business is slow – there is no paycheck at all. Most of the state employees and teachers, upon retirement, take their pensions and flee the state of New Jersey, leaving the rest of us to endure the ever rising taxes due to your benefits. And then say they can’t stay in this state due to the high taxes. Sorry, no compassion for you here.

    • Teacher

      You chose to run a small business, I didn’t choose to make less money for more years of work. Sorry no compassion for you here.

      • Why go back? Where else do you get 3 months of paid time off? Where in the private sector do you get days off because of 1 inch of snowfall? Where else do they send you home, and pay you, because it’s too hot or too cold? Stop whining.

    • Shauna

      As one who makes it a point to spend my money in small businesses and not at chains, I am sorry things are so difficult being an owner. I’m also sorry that I can’t buy anything from your story as if it’s not good I can no longer afford it. There are a lot of public workers who feel similarity to me and who are strong supporters of small businesses. As we go so do you.

    • Liz

      But that’s kind of what you signed up for when you decided to run a small business. You could have gone to college, gotten advanced degrees, passed licensing tests, and become a teacher. If that had been the case, you would have signed up for a lower salary and deferred compensation like we did. You would be complaining along side us if what you had signed up for changed halfway through the game.
      Here’s a little tidbit; I made SIGNIFICANTLY more money as a bartender. That’s a more lucrative job nowadays then educating your children.

    • Dana P.

      Sally, there are many business owners in the state of NJ who are also millionaires. At least that’s an option if you own a business. We are highly educated professionals, and deserve to be compensated equal to that of educated professionals in other fields. Your response to Ani’s blog post just sounds angry, not thoughtful or original. By the way, apart from being a public school teacher in NJ, I’m also a small business owner, and a part-time lecturer. I have 3 jobs to get by. Do you?

    • Patrick Rumaker

      Maybe, “Sally,” you should read “Pensionomics: Measuring the Economic Impact of State and Local Pension Plans.”

      You may be cutting off your nose to spite your face when you call for a cut in the income of your customers. The study (link below the bullet points) finds that expenditures made from state and local pension benefits for fiscal year 2005-2006:

      *Had a total economic impact of more than $358 billion.

      *Supported more than 2.5 million American jobs that paid more than $92 billion in total compensation to American workers.

      *Supported more than $57 billion in annual federal, state, local tax revenue.

      *Had large multiplier effects. Each taxpayer dollar invested in state and local pensions supported $11.45 in total economic activity, while each dollar paid out in benefits supported $2.36 in economic activity.

      *Had the largest impact on the manufacturing, health care, finance, retail trade, and accommodation and food service sectors.

      *Paid $151.7 billion in pension benefits to 7.3 million retirees and beneficiaries.

      http://www.nirsonline.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=189&Itemid=48

    • Really, no compassion? Selfish as they come. How much money do hide from the government with that small business? What kind of write offs to you get? What business dyouou own? We can have the whole state show no compassion and stop utilizing your service.

    • Judy

      Hmmmm…I guess there is nothing good about owning a small business. You discuss when business is slow, but what about when business booms? I will also assume you have your own retirement plan and not one you were forced to pay into even if you didn’t want to. If high taxes were a problem for you, why did you set up shop here?

      We teachers are the backbone of our society. Did you teach yourself to read or do math? Both skills are required for most businesses. I have a feeling that teachers have had an effect on your life and your business……I guess you forgot that.

    • Mary

      The directions stated that public school teachers were to leave comments, not small business owners.

    • Louise

      Yikes. You went into your own business knowing the landscape and what downside to expect, but were willing to accept that risk because of the upside potential. Surely you can see the point being made here – betrayal and promises broken by disdainful government management – by people who serve the common good with only the expectation of a decent living. No one went into public education expecting to be rich, but no one expected to have to fight to not lose ground. And be insulted on top of that by your boss, the governor.

      • luvmykiddo

        I chose to be a teacher to make a difference in the lives of children. I did not take a vow of poverty-making less now than I did five years ago is mind boggling. My disabled husband and my school aged daughter count on me to provide what is needed in our lives. Being the main bread winner is a huge responsibility, one I take very seriously. If your business isn’t doing as well as you’d like, you can change what path you take to make it more lucrative. I cannot. If you choose to change your insurance for financial purposes, you can choose your new provider. I cannot. If you choose to change your career, you can sell your business and go elsewhere. I cannot. I am in this until retirement…which is deferred compensation that I am entitled to for making significantly less than most do in the private sector. I pay into my pension every paycheck, and into a seperate retirement account so I can help my child attend college. You should be thankful people patronize your establishment and appreciate what you have instead of looking at what others do. You are comparing apples to oranges and, as a public employee, I do not find it productive.

    • Marge

      I don’t believe your opinion was asked for!

    • Camden County Teacher

      I guess ignorance is bliss! Small business owners do have it rough, my parents are small business owners. But the reality is teachers are educating the future of this country with little or no thanks or respect. Some don’t realize just how much effort and work teachers put in everyday including the weekends. It’s not a 9 to 5 job that you just get to walk away from everyday. For 10 months it’s a 24 hour job and then you don’t get a paycheck for the remaining 2 months out of the year. Something has to give or eventually all the teachers that put forth 110% for their students will begin to disappear and the education system will crumble.

    • Yes, I know your sad story all too well, my husband actually LOST his business, and I am now the major breadwinner at just over 60k per year gross income, with a net of a little over $35k. Don’t tell ME, that NJ public workers are complaining about nothing. I also work 12 months on that salary, and have taken a second seasonal job to try to make up for the additional losses in my paycheck.

    • Don’t tell ME that I am conplaining about NOTHING, I know all too well about small business and the issues there. I went to work in a public school at a much lower salary than I was earning in the private sector, because my husband started his own business, and we lost the coverage he had from his previous employer. I took a cut in pay for a better benefits package, which was supposed to help me in my retirement. My husband has since lost his business, and I am the major breadwinner in the family at just over 60k a year for my 12 month position, which nets us a little more than $35k due to the escalating increases in payments I make towards my pension and family health benefits. I am nearing retirement age, with no hope to retire. I also took on a second seasonal job to try to make up for the hit I’ve taken to my paycheck. Don’t tell me I don’t have a right to complain.

    • Bern

      My husband owns his a small business, so I understand what you are saying…there are no promises. I am a teacher who has, for 22 years ALWAYS paid into my health insurance. I pay more now than ever. When I took the job 22 years ago, it was something I was promised; negotiated if you will. It is something I am supposed to get in return for a meager salary…yes, it’s meager. I have a certification and two degrees; one being a Master’s. Yet, I only make $62,785 a year. I work hard and long hours…I am there an hour before the kids arrive to get stuff done (my choice) I bring work home with me EVERY DAY (my choice). Many time MY children feel neglected or disappointed because mommy can’t be with them because she is doing for her students. So please, don’t tell me you have no compassion. We are supposed to lift each other up; not tear each other down…something our world is missing!

    • a Choice

      I’d like to know where you found health care for $500. I am a teacher with TWO master’s degrees (paid for out of pocket) and my health care share (35%) is $789 per month!!!! Add in the ‘benefit’ of life insurance which is another 500 and my monthly payment is close to $1300.00.

      I live in a 3 bedroom ranch in Mercer County, my property taxes are $17,000 per year, with no public water or sewer services and my trash pick up is over $275 every 3 months. Did you think public employees live in free housing?

      In the tax year 2014, $14,000+ was deducted for my pension – and that is not a choice, it is an automatic deduction. There is no guarantee that my pension will be there when I retire, so I have an extra personal retirement account, as I’m sure you do, too.

      You are getting a bargain my friend. My take home pay is $220 LESS per month – while at the same time I have to save my sick days in case of major illness because I am not eligible to collect disability. I am the primary bread winner due to my husband’s small business being pulled in all directions, too. Not sure who you use for an accountant, but you need to check and quickly, because you are eligible to put income into retirement and defer the tax burden. Not sure what type of small business you have, but maybe your gripe is with your choice of a career, not with mine, I appreciate the fact that you are bitter toward those who went into public services – police, fire, road workers etc. I’m sure you have had a need for their services at some time in your life.

      Perhaps you need to examine the facts before taking your stand against public employees, remember, many public employees probably patronize your business –

    • A Clark

      You knew that (or should have) when starting a small business. I watched my father go through all you mentioned and therefore chose what was supposed to be the more secure profession of teaching. We were guaranteed certain things when we started our careers in exchange for less compensation. Now they are changing the rules mid-game.

  7. Karen Janes

    $55.00 less per paycheck = $1100.00 less per year! Florham Park School District – the best town in NJ to live in with the lowest paid teachers in Morris County and in the top ten for the HIGHEST salaries for administrators. I have been in the district for fifteen years and am on step 9 on a twenty-one step guide. We are entering our third year without a contract. Our membership voted down two MOA’s. Teachers are leaving en masse! Twelve new teachers in my building, alone! And we are a small district with only 350 kids in the middle school.

  8. Shauna

    This year I will be bringing home 200$ less a month. I am the primary earner in the house and most of my bills have increased (including the student loan I took to get my masters degree). I have no choice but to find extra jobs to try to make the difference ( I earned less last year also so my pay is on a steady down turn). I live paycheck to paycheck with no hope of ever making more money or having any retirement options.

  9. J Krenetsky

    Former Teacher:
    Shauna, like many teachers, it’s time for you to have a career change.

  10. AD

    Dear Sally Smith
    You chose to be a business owner. You knew the risks and rewards when you made that choice. We made the choice to teach and the governor changed the risks and rewards without our consent. Therein lies the difference.

  11. Matthew

    Welcome to the real world of increase healthcare costs. You work in the public sector paid by tax dollars. You chose your field and now want to complain that costs are going up and you have to pay for it. It’s time you all understand how society works. Are you too blind to notice unions are the problem? Thank the POTUS for your healthcare costs. It will be getting worse with te so-called Affordable Care Act. People are already taxed too much and we are over it.

    • Actually Matthew, the decline in unions is in direct correlation with the decline in middle class wages over the past 50 years. When large blocks of employees bargain for decent wages, benefits, and job safety and security, it lifts all boats instead of sinking all ships. The decline of labor is also in direct correlation to the obscene and rapid rise in corporate profits and CEO compensation. Unions are not the problem. The people who are trying to destroy them are.

      If anything, we need more—not fewer—labor unions. Ask yourself, wouldn’t you like to have more job security? People who will go to bat for you, stand up for you if you are being unfairly treated at work? A guaranteed deferred compensation (NOT benefit) at retirement? More job safety? Better working conditions? Unions provide all these things, and more. People like Christie, Walker, Kasich, Jeb!, the Koch Brothers and many more have brainwashed the American public into believing that unions are the problem when in fact THEY are the problem.

      President Obama did not raise healthcare costs; health insurance companies did. They didn’t have to push their extra costs onto consumers. Why didn’t they restructure the way they do business in order to better serve customers instead of share holders? Have you looked at CEO compensation packages for the major health insurance co’s? Have you looked at their corporate earnings? Why is it ok to bash public employees when insurance co’s made it their business (before ACA) to deny health coverage to those most in need of it? Insurance co’s have been ripping off consumers for decades before ACA became the law.

      And as to your comment about not understanding how society works, here’s what I don’t understand: I worked in the private sector, including owning my own business, for 15 years before I became a teacher, and I willingly took a paycut. The recession drove me to the brink of bankruptcy. I’m just starting to emerge from that. Why do so many people think it’s perfectly fine to kick us to the gutter, defund our schools, blame us for all of society’s ills when we, here in NJ, do our job better than any other state in the country?

      We are all hurting—you, me, everyone in the middle class. We should not be fighting each other. We should be standing together and fighting FOR each other.

  12. Shed Light

    Of course we are ALL taxed too much. But, have you stopped to notice EXACTLY WHERE those tax dollars are going. Teachers are made to be the scapegoat so that you don’t see what is going on behind the curtain. Wake up Matthew and the rest of America who continue to accept the rhetoric “unions are the problem.” LISTEN CAREFULLY: Your taxes are no longer going to public services that were once enjoyed by our society. Your tax dollars are being funneled into big business, while public entities are starved and taxes increase. Don’t believe it? Take note in little the state of NJ where mega-subsidies have broken records and taxes continue to soar. Here is where your tax dollars are going:

    http://www.njpp.org/reports/new-jerseys-surge-in-business-tax-subsidies-reaches-new-heights

    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/04/05/459296/christie-corporate-tax-giveaways/

    Should we even mention the waste of tax dollars?… like that special election, campaign costs, NFL gifts, stadium subsidies or personal legal fees:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-06-06/christie-the-cost-cutter-shrugs-off-24-million-election

    http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/01/chris_christies_out-of-state_travel_cost_at_least_1_million_for_security_detail_report_says.html

    http://www.ibtimes.com/chris-christie-gets-luxury-box-seats-after-nj-gave-nfl-big-subsidies-1773266

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/christie-pays-high-price-fighting-records-requests

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/stadium_subsidies_financed_by_pension_cuts_20140725

    http://www.northjersey.com/news/christie-s-office-billed-6-51-million-in-legal-fees-related-to-gwb-scandal-1.1068284

    This is just the tip of the ice-berg. Stop blaming teachers and open your eyes.

  13. Fran Sheppert

    I totally agree. I am actually working more for less pay. Public School Teacher in Newark NJ. I live in Belleville NJ. My neighborhood now has more vacant homes than ever before. Property taxes went up and not my pay. I plan to do just as my neighbors move out of New Jersey.
    Others just walked away and left homes vacant.

  14. Joe

    I’m really tired of hearing teachers drone on about being underpaid. Where to start? The 2010 study was of ALL public workers, not just teachers. This article fails to mention that teachers only work 8 months a year. Private business workers get an average of 10 days vacation per year and stats show they don’t even get to use all of those. Teachers get winter break, spring break, summer vacation and every conceivable holiday off. So you’re not really comparing apples to apples. As for benefits, a 35% cap is still amazing. Who do you think is paying the other 65%? It’s us, the tax payers! In the real world workers are lucky to have ANY employer contribution, and certainly almost never near 65%. And guess what… a huge percentage of workers haven’t gotten raises or significant increases since 2008. Sorry you have to taste what it is like to work a real job. Now, if only performance actually mattered…

    • Concerned NJ public school teacher

      Ok – now I have to comment – Joe!!!! We are taxpayers too. We share the burden on both sides! We are forced to accept Cadillac insurance plans (they’re wonderful but extremely costly) and pay 35% of the premium. Our employers can do whatever they want with the cost of the health benefits and we have to pay the 35% – no choice. Also, someone on here said that people in the private sector have to pay more for their pension – wait just a minute!!! I was in banking for 15+ years and we never had to put anything in our retirement/pension plan – the company we worked for did it all. As a teacher, we are now paying 8.5% of our salary into the pension plan. I absolutely have no problem paying my fair share, especially for things that will benefit me and my family, like health benefits and pension for later in my life. But you, Joe, are spewing ridiculousness with the “teachers only work 8 months a year!” This is totally untrue! I bring work home with me most nights and I do this willingly – nobody asks me to do it. I’m not complaining, just explaining. Also, we work 10 months a year and have about 9 weeks off total. I once compared my father’s “vacation” to my summer break. My father worked in banking for 40 years and the last 15 years or so had 6 weeks vacation. When all was said and done….there was about 9 days difference – as a teacher I received 9 days more “vacation”! That’s another thing, you call it vacation – when workers are on vacation don’t they get paid for it? Teachers do not get paid for their breaks – Our salaries are paid to us for approximately 186-190 days per year of work. If you break it down to hours, we really don’t make much. Also, Joe, you had the option of becoming a teacher, didn’t you? So why did you choose a different path? Probably because you didn’t want to be underpaid, overworked, bullied, the subject of scapegoating, teach kids to be awesome individuals and good citizens of the US. We always had the foresight to know that we would be compensated on a deferred basis much later. However, that has changed under Christie’s rampage of a governorship. Unbelievable! We get blamed for everything – but we are the only profession that makes all the other professions possible! Try getting a job without knowing how to read, knowing how to write, add, etc. Try doing ANYTHING without having learned in school. Good luck!

    • 8 months? September to June is 10 months.

    • Stephanie

      If performance mattered……hummmmm. Now let’s talk about that. I am a teacher and work for an inner city school district in South Jersey. We teachers work very hard. I am there early to prepare. Stay late and still bring work home with me. At the moment I am presently working without a classroom teacher. So I am doing my work plus that of a classroom teacher. I do the best I can. We have students who have other issues which need to be addressed so add that into the mix. So far despite all of this I believe MY performance is pretty good. Come do my job for a month than you will understand why teachers need the days off. Children aren’t machines and they can only do much. It is mentally draining when you deal.with the issues on a daily basis. So don’t judge us unless you have worked a month in our place.

  15. Patricia

    Sadly, it is the children of New Jersey who will end up paying the price, as more and more teachers leave the profession because they can no longer afford to teach. That will result in a teacher shortage unlike any we have ever seen, complete with overcrowded classrooms. Then, when the situation gets bad enough, changes will be enacted to entice people back into the profession which will include increased salaries and lower benefit costs to the employees. Essentially, everything old will be new again, but when, and at what cost to the hard-working, dedicated teachers who are now being squeezed out, and the multitude of students who will be negatively impacted over the years this debacle will take to be corrected?

  16. Discouraged

    New Jersey has its share of problems, but high quality public education is not one if them. It is so discouraging that our elected officials in Trenton have chosen to demonize public school employees as a means of deflecting attention from their own fiscal mismanagement. It’s even more discouraging to hear that some residents are drinking that kool-aid. We all pay a lot to live and work in NJ (the bulk of my property taxes pay to educate the children in my town, despite the fact that my own children have been out of high school for more than ten years). That’s what communities do: pool our resources to, collectively, achieve goals that we could not achieve individually. This includes providing excellent public education to all residents, not just the affluent. Are there districts that fail at this? Of course. But, by any measure, NJ public school are among the best in the nation. Once upon a time, however, so were the schools in California. Talented teachers were driven out by budget cuts and now California students are ranked among the lowest in math and language arts assessment. Christie doesn’t care about this; he wants to be president and is courting voters. By the time teacher shortages and the brain-drain of master teachers trickles down to impact our schools on a global level, he will be long gone and it will be someone else’s problem.

  17. Kat Cramer

    I am making $400 less per month than 3 years ago in Clinton Township. So many of our good teachers are leaving and so many staff members hold a second job just to put food on the table.

  18. Diane

    Yep, about $140 less in my paycheck than last year.

  19. I went back to look at my 2012 pay scale. Nothing else has changed in my choice of deductions. I am technically making almost 8 grand a year more…..but taking home over 1500 less than I did in 2012. Down almost a thousand dollars a month which is not going into small businesses, any splurges or luxuries. Cheap haircuts, bargain shopping, groceries limited to what is on sale. Not helping much for local businesses and trying to reduce expenses to any businesses times thousands of public workers.

  20. I left teaching in 1994, after being a HS Math teacher for 6 months (Jan-Jun permanent sub). The UNION locked me into $29,000 salary (first year teacher), even though I was a much better teacher than most of the elders. (Note, I was 30 yrs old, with a master degree in Education…had been engineer prior)

    At the same time, I was in the musicians UNION, when the union negotiated my per-service rate at $50. Then, a very important decision had to be made: Was I going to play trombone for a 3-hr service, or was I going to get $100/hr programming computers? You do the math.

    Ultimately, I quit both the orchestra and the math teacher job (and both unions), and took on a computer programming position at $65,000, and also did my own consulting on the side for $100/hr. Then I retired 15 yrs later!

    I still tutor math ($40/hr), and I teach music…for fun. I do some programming work for former clients.

    I feel no sympathy for teachers who stick with the union, thinking they’re more secure. Unions only protect the elite and the inept, whilst soaking the rest for union dues. Lucky for me, I had a serious independent streak; I’ve never been the lemming type.

  21. NJ Teacher

    Since 2011-2012, I have received raises totaling $10,575. My paycheck, however, has DECREASED $98.22 during this time. It has decreased $29.95 since June 2015!

  22. Middlesex County

    $100 less each paycheck. Could add up to a cost of earning $2,500 less this year.

  23. Jenny

    Since 2010 I have earned my masters as well as another 30 credits. Although my “salary” has increased about $10,000 due to my hard work, my take home is only about $7 more or $140 a year thanks to all the contributions I need to make.

  24. Camden County Teacher

    The public needs to start looking at the administrative salaries! They get $100,000 plus salaries and MERIT BONUSES!!! Sometimes those bonuses are more than a first year teacher’s salary…that’s just ludicrous! Did I mention those bonuses are given to administration for the work the TEACHERS have achieved! The whole system is jacked up!

  25. Verna

    It’s very disappointing to have dictated my entire career to teaching and learning only to face reforms that have caused hardships for my family and me. I worked 22 years to obtain my salary only to get it taken from with the cost of; higher health insurance and pension benefits. I’m caught in the cross fire of ALL this nonsense and have concerns about being able to retire in 3 years.

  26. Hope

    Teaching in New Jersey has become so stressful there are new standards one day that change the next day. The powers that be keep hiring people at the top and keep cutting teachers which make our class sizes too big. Our supplies are being cut more every year so we use our own money to buy essential items like copy paper for our classrooms. All this and our take home pay decreases every year. This is why teachers are leaving and young people are not coming into the teaching profession.

  27. F'd up state

    Time to walk out of our jobs. Let all the Union leaders organize a walk out/blue flu whatever you want to call it. They are not holding up their end of the law, why should we? We need to start showing up at politicians houses with pitchforks and torches like in the old days. The union leaders need to put out a list of politicians who voted for chapter 78 and vote them all out. Time to make a statement! Families who both work in teaching public sector are losing $15,000-$20,000 dollars a year in take hime pay thanks to this law. How can anyone expect to live with that kind of pay cut, especially when you have a family. It pains me even more to see families in schools getting everything for free. This punish success, reward failure mentality has to stop! This is an obvious attempt to make the Nj public education system fail so they can dismantle it and open more private/charter schools. Soon Christie will be saying “I told you these teachers aren’t doing their jobs, We need more private schools” You know the time is coming. We Also pay twice as much into our pensions, have to work twice as long to get half as much when we retire. Right, I’m gonna wipe my ass, then take a shit! It is totally backwards! The pension system will be bankrupt long before we ever retire.

  28. Dan

    Been a teacher 10 years now. Gets worse every year. When I started I paid $0 in benefits and was under the impression we’d have a pension, hence, now problem with the lower pay. Now I pay $7000 a year in benefits with no significant raise to speak of, oh yeah, and that pension is looking more and more like a pipe dream. I’ve been considering retiring and moving to a job that has a REAL pension system in place not this sham of a state that treats its educators like villains. You want me to guide your child, care for them and their needs, take into account every students learning needs, be sensitive to their feelings and individual home lives all while providing a quality education but oh yeah I’m overpaid as I take home pay cuts year after year.

  29. there are not too many great jobs out here in NJ even for a college educated person.you have to be high tech etc. Then you are applying for jobs while there are are many other applicants.
    i know because I live month to month on com. basis.
    I would love to be a teacher even if the pay was low.At least you get a steady pay and no lay offs.
    Try getting another job in the private sector. It is tough. One week out here and may long for the low pay.At least it is steady.

  30. Helen A.Hickmon

    Paterson School District continues to lose good teachers and have destroyed the morale of countless more. I cringe at the fact I was cheated out of 3 pay steps and suffered 4 years of stagnation. SMDH!

  31. And the governor liable for gambling away his public employees’ hard- earned pension funding was never (at least not that I saw) questioned about it as he stood up on stage in debate after debate. He has simply become yet another ALEC blueprint for sucking up all those public monies — and ultimately bankrupting the state.

  32. John Rothgerber

    Citizens should stop contributing to Elected officials pension fund until the state fully funds the state workers pension fund. Elected officials should be in the same healthcare system as state employees and pay for their premiums at the same rate as state workers.

  33. Johnny

    Why don’t you all just go to your boss, show her how much harder you work than the others. Show her the extra work you took on without being asked over the last year. Then threaten to quit unless you get a raise?

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