New Jersey Teachers, State Workers and the Pension Crisis

It appears that the voters of New Jersey heeded the call of the newly elected governor Chris Christy to reject the school budget of any district that didn’t impose a wage freeze on its teachers. As of this writing the NJ School Boards Association reported that 58.7 % of the 537 School Budgets that were voted on in the Tuesday April 20th election were defeated.

The Tension between the new Governor and the teachers union: The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) began when the Governor made the rejection appeal earlier this month to voters as well as his introduction of a proposal to reform the State pension system which is in the process of becoming insolvent , by being under funded by approx. 34 billion dollars. It reached its height when president of the Bergen County Education Association Joe Coppola who signed a memo in which he called for “Prayers” for the death of the Governor. Mr. Coppola has described it as a joke but the governor didn’t see it that way and had his spokesperson call for Mr. Coppla’s resignation.

I value our teachers, and public safety officials, they have some one of the hardest jobs out there but in this dire fiscal crisis something has to give, it also points to the bigger crisis of NJ pension liability in general. The call for a one year wage freeze for the teachers and the proposed pension reform are reasonable. Currently most teachers and state workers do not pay into their health benefits the pension reform would require the workers to pay a portion of their salary for these benefits just like the vast majority of the workers in the private sector. It also would limit the number of unused sick days retiring employees can cash out. In the majority of the private sector there are no “Cash Value” for unused sick days.

Since 2001 benefits for NJ government employees and teachers, were increased by 9%, creating an additional $4.2 billion in liabilities in the Pension system. In 1999 the “20 and out” measure was adopted that allowed paid firefighters and local police to collect pensions equal to 50% of their pay after 20 years of service, I cant think of any private enterprise that offers such great pension benefits. Conceivably state workers with today’s average life span can retire in their forties and collect a pension benefit
Longer than they have worked.

It used to be that state workers (Public School Teachers, Police Officers etc) were paid below scale versus positions in the private sector but were made a promise they would be taken care of in the “back End” with generous pension benefits but in today they are making similar salaries (Or in some cases more when you factor in their health and other benefits ) and receive pension benefits along with job security that are rarely available in the private sector. In these times of economic dislocation, high unemployment & private
sector wage Cuts & Freezes it is unfair to expect the taxpayers to foot the bill for pay and benefits on a higher scale then they are receiving. Its time to ask some sacrifice from state employees and taxpayer shouldn’t be made a slave to the public servant.

And that’s my opinion –D.B.

2 Comments

  1. Jerry Friedrich Jerry Friedrich
    April 22, 2010    
  2. April April
    April 22, 2010    

    Some teachers DO pay for their healthcare, maybe not 100% but they do pay. This is a concession that was made years ago during contract negations. For a teacher to accept a pay-freeze, and yes there are some that would, that would mean that the current contract they are under is deemed null and void and must be re-negotiated. For most teachers the negotiation of the contract was tough the first time around.

    For many years teachers have accepted less because the economy wasn’t good but when the economy turned around they were not offered more to compensate for the bad times. This is a fact from personal experience.

    The reason the teacher’s pension fund is in such bad shape is because the State of New Jersey has not been putting their part into the fund. All teachers have been paying into the pension fund but the state has been using their part for other things. This is what got the pension fund in such shape in the first place. This year the Governor has deferred payment into the pension fund so it is under-funded yet again by the government.

    I invite anyone to come in and teach for a week. Once you have experienced the lack of respect from students and parents alike, the lack of support from administration and the apathy of more than half the student population you will know what a teacher must deal with day in and day out. There are dedicated teachers that are trying to make a difference each and every day, and there are some that aren’t committed. But for the most part teachers care about their students, they want to teach instead of doing all the other junk administration give them to do, and they want to make a difference in a students life. Parents need to get involved and not blame the teacher first when their child has a problem or is failing. The parents that need to come to teacher conferences never come and the parents that are involved are the ones that always show up.

    If I were asked today if teaching was a good field to enter I would say no. The atmosphere in today’s schools is one of entitlement; students want information hand fed, they don’t want to work. Students learn just enough to pass the next test and then they forget it all. Students will not take responsibility for their actions because they don’t have to. We need to get back to the basics and students need to want to learn. If they don’t care, nothing that is done is going to make the situation any better. No amount of money in the world is going to make students learn, they have to want to learn.

    That being said, there are good students out there that do want to learn. They have to put up with the constant distractions in the classroom and they have to wait for the teacher to deal with disruptive students that just get sent back to the classroom to make more trouble. Parents need to support the teachers and not blame them for whatever is going on in their child’s life. When parents are involved in a positive manner, students do well and are excited to learn.

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