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5-17-13 Education Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - NJEA Clockwork Elections Belie Stormy Relations with Governor, Administration...Buono endorsement and new super PAC could indicate teachers union is ready to fight

Politickernj - Special interests alive and well, Christie says in lamenting lack of voucher programs

Politickernj - EDA whittles down charter school construction bond applications

NJ Spotlight - NJEA Clockwork Elections Belie Stormy Relations with Governor, Administration

Buono endorsement and new super PAC could indicate teachers union is ready to fight


By John Mooney, May 17, 2013 in Education

For all the attention the teachers union and its leadership receive, the election of the NJEA's top officers is uneventful to the point of predictability. There's rarely even a challenger these days.

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The vice president gets elected president; the secretary treasurer is elected vice president.

The one relatively new face is that of the secretary treasurer, who's starting out on the first rung of the leadership ladder.

Yet for all their predictability, this year's leadership transition comes at a time where the New Jersey Education Association faces some of its biggest challenges, with the union under current president Barbara Keshishian often at loggerheads -- if not open combat -- with Gov. Chris Christie and his administration.

Keshishian, who steps down after her two-term limit, was famously the union president who was shown the door by Christie in his first year in office after the two met and she refused to call for the resignation of a county president who had said he wished the governor dead.

Whether it was pension reforms or the governor’s often-combative rhetoric, the next two years didn’t get much better. While there have been some moments of détente since then, Christie and the NJEA have largely kept a healthy distance. (The county president in question, Joseph Coppola of Bergen County, was reelected this week.)

Meanwhile, the union yesterday announced the results of its latest election. Current vice president Wendell Steinhauer was named to his first two-year term as president. Steinhauer, who ran unopposed, is a high school math teacher in Riverside.

Marie Bliston, a special education teacher in Gloucester’s County’s Washington Township, moved up to vice president, also unopposed. The new name is Sean Spiller, who easily won the sole challenged race to be secretary-treasurer. Spiller teaches science in Wayne, and is a Montclair councilman.

All three will start in the paid, full-time positions on September 1.

They could be in for a rocky ride. The NJEA’s delegate assembly has endorsed Christie’s presumptive Democratic challenger, Barbara Buono. It has also created a new Super PAC that is expected to play an important role in an election that is already shaping up to be the state’s costliest.

Unlike the NJEA’s current state PAC, the Super PAC can accept contributions without limits and doesn’t have to disclose the donors to the IRS until after the election.

Calling it a critical time for the union, Steinhauer said he would not support policies that he believes will hurt teachers and harm schools.

The union has been most outspoken in opposing Christie’s pending proposal for the state’s first school voucher program. It also is opposed to the expanded influence of student testing overall and, more specifically, the use of test scores as a significant measure in evaluating teachers.

“We must be willing to consider new ideas and try new things when the research points us in that direction,” Steinhauer said in the NJEA’s announcement. “But it also means taking a strong, principled stand against some of the destructive ideas that are being imposed on our schools today.”

“Parents and educators alike are very concerned about things such as the over-emphasis on standardized testing, which is eroding the quality of education children are getting in their classrooms,” he said. “I am very open-minded, and I welcome challenging discussions. But I will not stand by and watch our public schools be sold to the highest bidder.”


Politickernj - Special interests alive and well, Christie says in lamenting lack of voucher programs

By Matthew Arco | May 16th, 2013 - 4:52pm

SAYREVILLE – Gov. Chris Christie again turned his attention to New Jersey’s teacher unions when talking about school vouchers.

The governor told residents the reason the state does not have a school voucher program is because of “the power” of special interests in New Jersey. Christie was asked by a resident whether he supports a voucher program.

Yes, Christie responded, saying the state would have such a program if the lawmaker were not feeling pressured by unions.

“This has not passed the Legislature and I think there’s a great deal of opposition in the organized union movement against giving people the option,” he said. “I proposed it over and over and over again.”

Christie’s latest proposal is to infuse $2 million in the Opportunity Scholarship Act. The fact that lawmakers have not acted on the proposal and sent it to his desk is evidence of the strength of the teacher unions, Christie said.

“I think the reason for that shows you the power of some of the special interest in the state,” he said.


Politickernj - EDA whittles down charter school construction bond applications

By Minhaj Hassan | May 16th, 2013 - 3:24pm

TRENTON - The Economic Development Authority at its Thursday meeting approved an invitation list for certain charter schools to apply for $125 million in Qualified School Construction bonds.

The authority received a total of 16 applications from 13 charter schools and scored each one based on certain criteria, such as the proposed academic impact of the construction project, the school’s standing and evaluation of the students it serves.

The EDA and the state Education Department whittled the requests from 15 to six. Four of them are from a single charter school, Uncommon Charter School/North Star Academy. Between its four applications, it potentially could be approved for $77 million of the $125 million in QSCBs.

The other two applications are from University Heights Charter School ($8 million bond request) and TEAM Academy-Ashland Project ($40 million).  

EDA stressed that the motion approved today was strictly an invitation, meaning the selected candidates must still go through an application process.   


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