"New Jersey Teachers Union Forced to Take Back Seat to Kids
"When New Jersey teachers union members refused to make room for students in a legislative committee hearing, the chairman took the meeting to the students.
Approximately 1,500 New Jersey schoolchildren and school choice supporters witnessed democracy in action on Thursday, May 13, when they attended a rally at the state capitol to support a private school choice bill under debate in the state Senate. The rally was set to support S1872, legislation that would establish a five-year scholarship tax credit pilot program for students in failing schools, which was heard by the Senate Economic Growth Committee that day.
When State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union), chairman of the committee and longtime supporter of school choice, prepared to call the committee to order, he noted that all of the seats had been taken by New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) members.
The chairman requested that half of the seats be made available for the children who supported the school choice bill. The union members refused to offer the children any seats.
So, the senators’ desks were moved, and Chairman Lesniak took the committee hearing outside:
“The NJEA and their supporters packed the room. I asked them to allow for fifty percent of supporters of the legislation in the room or else I was going to have them take the meeting outside so that everybody can see it. They refused to leave the room, so we’re going to have the committee meeting right here. Outside.”
In the end, the committee agreed that if they could meet outside of the government-assigned committee room – and instead outside, in the light of sunshine and in the view of taxpayers – students in failing schools should have the same flexibility to find a better venue that meets their needs.
The committee unanimously passed the legislation.
If enacted, the pilot program could fund up to $24 million in scholarships for up to 4,000 children the first year. After five years, up to 20,000 children would receive $120 million in scholarships. Scholarship funds would come from corporate contributions, for which the corporations would receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. The full Senate must approve the measure before it advances to the state Assembly.
Meanwhile, the NJEA refuses to accept any responsibility for the looming budget gaps at both the state and district levels. Only 30 school districts have accepted any form of a pay freeze for employees, and as the Star-Ledger Editorial Board recently used the situation in Fairfield, New Jersey, to illustrate the statewide mess:
“A pay freeze in Fairfield would comprise 77 percent of the needed $140,000 in cuts. But teachers there, and throughout the state, have thumbed their noses at taxpayers — the same taxpayers who have made teachers among the highest-paid in the nation, with an average salary of $63,154, a pension and, until recently, free health care benefits. So taxes will go up, programs will be eliminated and teachers will lose jobs. Hamilton will fire 75 teachers, and the union won’t even allow its membership to vote on a pay freeze that would save many of those jobs.”
The rest of New Jersey legislators should take note. The NJEA does not want to be a part of the solution. They are the core of the problem.Hundreds rally in support of school voucher bill"