Category Archives: NJEA

The Shameless Republicans who Refuse to Denounce Sam Thompson’s Double Dipping: Just Another Reason Why New Jersey Property Taxes Are So High.

For nearly two weeks now, I’ve tried to contact New Jersey Republicans, New Jersey Tea Parties, and New Jersey blogs that claim to be conservative. I’ve asked them to denounce Sam Thompson’s double dipping. Thompson has been double dipping since 1998 as an Assemblyman, and plans continue double dipping if elected State Senator in District 12. Despite this, he claims to be a fiscal conservative. I call him a fiscal phony. Regardless of whether or not I get elected, I want my campaign to at least stop one of the many New Jersey politicians from double dipping. I think it would be an important symbolic victory for New Jersey taxpayers.

I wasn’t sure why conservatives haven’t been able to pressure Thompson to stop double dipping. I first thought that many groups that are trying to eliminate fiscal waste simply did not know Thompson was a double dipper, so I’ve reached out to groups around the state through Twitter and Facebook and told them about Thompson’s double dipping. I then asked them to join me and other taxpayers in denouncing Thompson’s actions.

I contacted Tea Parties in New Jersey on Twitter. Thus far, the Ocean County Tea Party and The Northern New Jersey Tea Party have stood by in deafening silence. Neither of these organizations have joined me in asking Thompson to stop double dipping. Why do groups that claim to be “taxed enough already” refuse to denounce a guy’s actions that create government waste and cause high taxes? I’m still awaiting Bayshore Tea Party’s response, and will update you with their decision.

The New Jersey Tea Party had an interesting, if not paranoid, reply. After not replying to my first request, I asked them why they refused to denounce Thompson, and they stated that their party “does not refuse to do that”. This got my hopes up, as I thought it would lead to a clear denunciation of Thompson. I was wrong. They followed with a rather curious claim, “We are obligated to do nothing you like”. It gets better, as they then told me if I “Attempt to dictate what We must say” and “We may claim that You are an enemy of freedom”. Amazing. Only in New Jersey. A guy asks a Tea Party group to denounce a double dipper, and I’m considered an enemy of freedom.

After having no luck with Tea Parties, I thought I’d contact some conservative Blogs. Save Jersey claimed to be against all double dipping, but have refused to publicly denounce Thompson. Rather than doing that, they questioned how a candidate with a union endorsement (in this case, NJEA) could question another candidate for “waste & greed”. Of course, Thompson was endorsed by the AFL-CIO in 2009, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. The larger problem here is their rather pedestrian slight of hand technique to divert attention from the issue of Thompson double dipping. They have yet to publicly denounce Thompson. I’m not holding my breath.

This leads me to Art Gallagher of More Monmouth Musings. Similar to the reply of the New Jersey Tea Party, Art’s initial response got my hopes up. He informed me that “conservatives already denounced that months ago before I was a candidate”, and asked “where were you then”? I was in Old Bridge, but I also denounced Sam’s double dipping back in 2009. I have tried to find out which conservatives he was talking about, and assumed he was claiming to be one of them. However, I haven’t found anything that Art has written to suggest he opposes Thompson’s double dipping. I also asked him if he could provide me a link. He has yet to do so. Instead, he has questioned the pension I received after I was shot in the line of duty. The Old Bridge GOP and a Republican consulting firm were quick to “retweet” this question,
but less quick to answer my questions about Thompson’s antics. As I have previously stated in my last campaign and this one, I will give up my pension if elected to office. This has been published on the Star Ledger website. However, Art isn’t really interested in this. He has more interest in maintaining his relationship with cozy relationship with elected Republicans, regardless of their pension antics. Asking about my pension is the same tactic Save Jersey pursued when they asked about one of my endorsements.

Of course, I’ve tried to contact the GOP and get a few answers. Funnily enough, I expected the least from them in all of this, but the Old Bridge GOP gave me the most entertaining answers. After first asking for a source to my claim about Thompson’s double dipping (Did they really not know?), they then told me that Thompson is not “ACTUALLY” double dipping. How did they reach that conclusion? They stated: “Sam retired after 25+ years of service to the State and collects a pension from that. He was then elected to the legislature, a different job, where he receives a salary”. Amazing. How is that not double dipping? He continues to receive a pension despite holding a job in the legislature.

It actually gets even better. Old Bridge GOP wrote “Sam’s decision to retire saved taxpayers money Bob and you know this. It’s easy math.” How on earth do they reach this conclusion? It’s bad enough to avoid denouncing a double dipper, but now the GOP is claiming that double dipping saves NJ taxpayers money?! Only in New Jersey. And, it wasn’t just them. The person running “Frank Pallone is not for New Jersey”, who claims to be conservative, also stated that Thompson’s double dipping has saved us money. How on earth does anyone let Republicans near their money?!

The only other defense by the Old Bridge GOP is to claim that there are Democratic double dippers. As I’ve previously stated, I believe double dipping by any politician in any party is wrong. Both sides need to give it up. However, my experience with “conservative” voices in New Jersey tells me that Republican double dippers like Thompson face no pressure to end this practice. As funny as the defenses of Thompson have been to read, it is Thompson and other double dippers that have the last laugh, and they do so at the taxpayer’s expense.

Only in New Jersey.

Bob Brown
Democratic Candidate for State Senate in District 12

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Filed under 12th Legislative District, AFL-CIO, Bayshore Tea Party, Bob Brown, double dipping, NJ Tea Party, NJEA, Old Bridge GOP, pension reform, Sam Thompson, Twitter

>Fine Print: Senate Bill No. 2937 Proposed legislation would dictate sweeping changes to public employees’ pensions and healthcare benefits

>By John Mooney – NJSPOTLIGHT.com

Synopsis: “An act concerning public employee pension and health care benefits, and amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law and repealing P.L.1999, c.96 and P.L.1985, c.414. Makes various changes to pension and healthcare benefits for public employees”

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Senate Bill No. 2937

Primary sponsor: Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester)

What it means: The 120-page bill makes sweeping changes to public employees’ contributions to their pension and health benefit plans, and to the rules that dictate those benefits. Pensions and benefits have been at the center of debate between Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature since Christie took office, and the apparent agreement on this bill — at least for now — has consumed Trenton for much of the last week and likely for the next.

It’s all in the details: The new bill, introduced yesterday, would require public employees pay up to an additional 2.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, and up to 30 percent of their healthcare premiums. But how the law meets those thresholds represents the key differences between what Christie has sought and what Sweeney now proposes, with the Democratic leader phasing in some of the increases and also scaling the healthcare contribution, depending on salary. Low-paid public workers will barely make any contribution at all.

Riding off into the sunset clause: Sweeney struck a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) in introducing the bill to also include Oliver’s proposal that the health benefits changes would have a “sunset clause” and revert to being a subject of collective bargaining in 2014. Christie has not yet commented on the proposed sunset, but has appeared reluctant to back any reforms that have a limited shelf life.

What’s next: The Senate budget committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill tomorrow, with the Assembly budget committee slated to hold its own hearing on the companion bill on Monday.

The reaction: Needless to say, public employees unions aren’t taking too well to the ideas, and have big protests planned tomorrow for the Statehouse and maybe legislators’ homes. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is also holding a press conference today to point out what it calls the false assumptions and savings in the proposals.

Will it pass? That of course, is the bottom line. It’s as close as ever to passage, to be sure, but it faces lots of questions both in substance and politics. Sweeney has said he will push it through, even if it means defying some of his Democratic caucus. Oliver has been less willing, and has indicated she may not post it for final vote without consent of her members.

In the end, it will require what was once unfathomable: a sizable number of Democrats going against organized labor during an election year. But these are remarkable times, with similar measures passing in other states with Democratic support.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension reform, NJEA, NJspotlight, public unions, senate bill 2937, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney

>11th Congressional District Challenger Douglas Herbert Endorsed by NJEA

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(Morristown) – October 1st, 2010 – On Friday, the New Jersey Education Association’s 125-member political action committee voted to endorse Douglas Herbert for Congress in New Jersey’s Eleventh Congressional District. Douglas Herbert is the only New Jersey Congressional challenger that they chose to endorse. Doug said, “I am pleased and honored to be endorsed by the NJEA, an organization that has always fought for New Jersey’s students, teachers, and families. If elected, I will be the strongest advocate to make New Jersey’s public education the best in the world. The fact that I am the only challenger endorsed by the NJEA is a testament to the movement we have built in the Eleventh District.”

Barbara Keshishian, the NJEA President, said, “Each of our endorsed candidates has distinguished himself or herself by advocating for great public schools, public school employees, and for the 1.4 million New Jersey schoolchildren our members educate.”

Douglas Herbert who is running against eight-term incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen said, “My opponent has neglected his responsibility to the students of this District by consistently standing againstprograms, which would have helped them. As a father of three, I know that it is vital that we keep our educational system strong. I will not make a political gamble or place personal ambition above our children’s well-being and America’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.”

To read the statement from the NJEA

Contact
press@douglasherbert.org
(973) 342-5775

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Filed under 11th Congressional District, Douglas Herbert, endorsement, NJEA, press release

>N.J. loses bid for federal Race to the Top money

>Nice job the Governor did in helping to secure “Race to the Top” grant, if he tried any harder we may have come in 12th or 13th. What a shame!!

BY LESLIE BRODY
THE RECORD

New Jersey lost its bid Tuesday for $400 million in federal Race to the Top grants for school reform — by a nose.

Judges ranked New Jersey number 11 but only the top 10 contestants got money. Its score of 437.8 out of 500 fell only three points short of Ohio’s winning plan.

Public finger-pointing began immediately as the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, blamed the loss on Governor Chris Christie’s last-minute rejection of the grant proposal negotiated by his education commissioner and union representatives.

Christie’s “irrational, ideological hatred of NJEA — which led him to throw his own commissioner of education under the school bus for cooperating, rather than conflicting, with NJEA — has led to utter failure, and the loss of desperately needed funds for our public schools,” union president Barbara Keshishian blasted to members online.

Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella countered that “if it’s a choice between choosing the children of New Jersey and capitulating to the status quo the governor will choose the children’s education every time.”

She also noted that an area where New Jersey’s score jumped 23 points since its failed first-round bid was the section on creating “great teachers and leaders.” That part included several of the key proposals the NJEA protested, such as individual merit pay and undercutting seniority rules by retaining the most effective teachers when budget cuts require layoffs….

Read More >>> Here

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Filed under Federal Grants, Gov. Chris Christie, NJEA, Race to the Top, school funding

NJ teachers union will meet with Schundler to discuss reform package

On the front page of today’s Asbury Park Press appears the following headline; NJ teachers union will meet with Schundler to discuss reform package.

Due to all the inflammatory rhetoric about teachers and the NJEA being thrown about about by the Governor and his “mini-me”, Middletown’s mayor Gerry Scharfenberger, I read the article with interest and was glad to find out that the NJEA and State Education Commissioner Bret Schundler will be sitting down to discuss potential reforms that will have an impact the union as well as on how children in the state are taught.
According to Schundler and the article the reforms that they will be discussing will be based on President Obama’s platform for reforming education, Race to the Top, and that “…federal education officials have determined that the second round of Race to the Top funding decisions would give reform efforts stronger consideration than acceptance by the teachers unions… In the previous funding round, union acceptance was a key component of the analysis. “

It went on to add:
“…the state would “make child learning the standard and the measure by which professionals are evaluated…. the state will need to replace a failing school’s management team or its entire staff…. that “educational effectiveness” and not necessarily seniority should be a prime factor in which staff members end up getting laid off during staff reductions.

In his address, Schundler said that the state constitution requires the Legislature to provide for a thorough and efficient system of education, and so the ultimate responsibility to make sure children learn is not school administrators, teachers or even the teachers’ union, but “the responsibility to provide an education is for those of us in state government.”…

If handled correctly by both Schundler and the NJEA, I think these discussions could be a very important first step in addressing how effective local school boards could be in the future when entering into collective bargaining agreements with members of the teachers union by leveling the playing field in which schools boards must operate under while negotiating contracts.
Everyone know that the problems that we face today with the reliance on property taxes to fund our school system is not the fault of teachers, but yet teachers are feeling the heat from the politicians that have put the current system in place and who don’t have the political will to change it through proper negotiations or statutes.
My position all along has not been necessarily to support teachers, but to support the sanctity of the collective bargaining agreements that have been negotiated in good faith with local school boards.
In all honestly, I feel that teachers here in Middletown and across the state, that turned down requests for one year wage freezes to help ease the pain that local tax payers are feeling this year, was the wrong decision to make. They should have accepted wage freezes as a sign of good will towards the communities that pay them. However, I do not blame them or hold ill will towards them because of that decision. A contract is a contract and should be honored as such.
But, when the school boards enter into contract discussion with teachers next year, teachers should be well aware that residents will not be as tolerable of their stance on wages and benefits as they have been in the past so therefore they should be open to making some kind of consessions in these areas.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Bret Schundler, budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, long term reform, Middletown Board of Education, NJEA

Scharfenberger taints budget negotiations with rhetoric before sitting down with school board.

It’s been 13 days since Middletown voters turned down the township school budget and during this time Middletown’s mayor has attempted to take a page straight out of Governor Christie’s playbook.

With a press release and a personal letter directed at the MTEA and it teachers he issued an ultimatum, take a wage freeze or face further spending cuts to the school budget that was defeated on April 20th.

Scharfenberger’s letter that was published today in the Atlantic Highlands Herald and read aloud on radio station NJ101.5, took acceptation at being rebuffed by the teacher’s union stating, “… the MTEA did not even afford me the courtesy of a response. I find this extremely distressing…”

Really? What I find distressing is the fact that today, before meeting with representative of the Middletown Board of Education to discuss the pending school budget; Scharfenberger felt it necessary to fan the flames of discontent with needless rhetoric in an attempt, I suppose, to try and gain the upper hand during the review process of the budget.

It’s too bad that Scharfenberger thinks he needs to play politics by taking on the local teacher’s union in order deflect attention away from his own mishandling of the turf issue and the Township’s own $5+ million budget deficit.

At the very least, before opening his mouth and inserting his foot, he should give the process a chance to move forward positively without the taint of inflammatory rhetoric before the whole Township Committee has had a chance to review and make recommendations on how much money can or cannot be sliced from the school budget, because when he fails to cut a significant portion of the $3M from the school budget that he said could have been avoided only if the teacher’s had excepted a wage freeze, he will be exposed as the partisan hack politician that we all know that he is.

When you consider that the Township uses the gimmick of deferred taxes to help balance the township budget, Gerry can afford to cut an additional $3M from the school budget.

For those that don’t know what deferred taxes are a simple way to explain it is this, after each school budget is approved the township starts to collect the new school tax rate immediately before the old school budget has expired. This enables the township to use the revenue from the newly approved budget, which generally has a higher tax rate; the Township could be collecting the difference between the old and new tax rate for as much as 3-4 months and use it to offset the municipal tax rate. This money rightfully belongs to the Middletown Board of Education however they never receive it.

Currently, after some 20 years of practice close to $60M is owed to the school board and it looks as if it will never be repaid even though the line item grows every year and appears in township budget documents.

So Gerry can bluster all he wants about cutting the school budget if the teachers refuse a wage freeze but the bottom line is that the township relies on that money just as much as the kids in the school system do.

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Filed under Atlantic Highlands Herald, budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, MTEA, NJEA, school budgets, Teachers

I will make up my own mind about the budget.


I was forwarded the following letter last night by someone who wished not to be identified. The person took acception to Governor Christie’s recent statement that urged voters to turn down their local school budget if teachers in their towns refused to take a wage freeze .

I agree with the letter writer and the comments that this person added at the bottom of it from a few who responded to the story that was posted on NJ.com about the governor’s comments.

I think the governor’s comments were both reckless and callous. If voters turn down school budgets across the state next week it will result in more teachers being let go and sports programs and after school activities being cut or eliminated, which would be a real shame due to the fact that many students need of those types of programs for possible scholarships opportunities and to bulk up their college transcripts in order to get into their preferred college of choice.
Here’s the letter:

Imagine telling your grown kids, heck, your parents how to vote. I don’t know about you but it would go over like a lead balloon in many New Jersey households. I believe one of the basic tenets of the constitution is the right to make a free and unfettered choice on how to vote on Election Day. Chris Christie must have missed that day in civics class.

I would never have believed this headline if I had not read it for myself.

“Gov. Chris Christie urges voters to reject school districts’ budgets without wage freezes for teachers” NJ.com

First of all, you have to wonder what the real reason is behind this declaration. Is it that Christie is nervous about the tax increases that have accompanied those proposed budgets? The ones that were caused by “The self-proclaimed “conservative” Republican is cutting suburban property tax relief by amounts unimaginable even under the liberal Democrat he defeated” to quote Paul Mulshine.

Those tax increases scare him and that does not even take into account what will happen the following school year when districts have no tax relief to offer their residents. He may be at war with the NJEA but his GOP legislators are the ones who have to hang their hats and their necks on the line for this budget, especially next year when they run for election. From what I hear the legislative kitchen is getting pretty hot these days.

Then you have to wonder why the Governor doesn’t lead by example. Let him take a pay cut and contribute 1.5% of his salary to his health insurance. Well he hasn’t even offered. Neither have all those legislators in Trenton who should know better.

They can’t even get the stories straight in Trenton, because today at a Senate budget hearing , Department of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler said he would not recommend voters reject those budgets when they go to the polls on April 20. Schools are dealing with a nearly $820 million cut in funding while facing increasing salary and benefits costs. He tried to reinterpret what the Governor said to make it sound more palatable. I’m sorry, I like many other voters choked on the Governor’s very clear words.
If you check out the latest Monmouth University/Gannett poll it makes it very clear.
The governor is more likely to be blamed by registered voters for impending teacher layoffs statewide than either the teachers unions or local school boards, according to the results of a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll.
Fully 44 percent cite Christie as the party responsible for school districts reducing work forces in order to balance budgets for the next school year, while 28 percent blame the unions and 17 percent the school boards, according to poll results.

“It’s Goliath versus Goliath,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch. “But the governor’s bluster in taking on the teachers union has backfired.”
It goes on to say,
When asked specifically about the governor’s proposed cuts in state aid to towns and school districts, more than half (52%) feel those cuts are unfair in comparison to cuts made in other areas of the budget. Only 28% say these cuts in local aid are fair.

“The local aid reduction, particularly to schools, was always going to be the flashpoint for criticism of the plan, and the governor’s clash with the NJEA only increased the heat. If part of his strategy was to win over public opinion, it hasn’t been an overwhelming success,” said Murray.
I don’t even need a poll to tell me that. I found some particularly enlightening words on Bluejersey.com.
I think it’s fair to say the students are being held hostage in the disputes between the Governor, the school boards, and the unions. In that complex multi-sided hostage standoff, Christie just asked the bystanders to shoot the hostages. We already have voters who routinely reject school budgets because they resent paying taxes for the public school system that has been benefiting our society for generations. To recklessly ask them to reject budgets wholesale is in my opinion a shocking tactic, especially when rejecting a budget will not release school districts from the contract their leadership willingly signed. Rejecting the budget won’t hurt most teachers directly.

I say let people judge each budget on its own merits. Let’s not let anyone dictate to us how we should vote. In Middletown, the budget has been cut by a staggering amount ($9,608,000) and is already putting 124 district personnel on the street in July. Those people and many others will be joining the ranks of the unemployed who will require unemployment benefits from our deleted funds. They may find more residents going into foreclosure and selling homes, dampening a poor housing market.
The one thing I can promise is that if budget are voted down your kids will be the ones that are hurt.
Just listen to some fellow residents posting on NJ.com
Posted by lakeline
April 12, 2010, 3:14PM
I’m not a teacher, but I have two kids in school and I wish the Governor would stop hurting their education. Since he has failed to sway the Teacher’s Union himself, he’s pushing us to do it for him. Every failed budget reduces a kids education in multiple ways. Sure, negotiate with your teachers for reasonable compromises, but Vote Yes for your budget. We don’t all have the Governor’s money to send our kids to Private School

Posted by netspider
April 12, 2010, 2:44PM
Gov. Christie you have crossed the line with this statement. Shame on You. How can you ethically make a comment on how anyone should vote.

Posted by kadtom
April 12, 2010, 2:31PM
Are you kidding Me? The governor is now trying to dictate what the public people should do?? I can’t believe I voted for a dictator who’s children don’t even attend public schools? I moved to Chatham for the good schools. Good schools and location are why my property values are highly appraised. If I want to vote yes I will! Don’t dictate to the people who elected you governor! You lost my vote, that’s for sure.

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Filed under Blue Jersey, budget cuts, Education Funding, Gov. Chris Christie, layoffs, NJ.com, NJEA, Teachers