Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Christie to Teachers: "Drop Dead"

When Chris Christie was elected Governor of New Jersey, most people acknowledged that he had a tough job ahead of him bringing the state out of its financial crisis.  But what was unexpected, at least by some, is his brutal treatment of one of the state’s most important resources, the teachers who help develop our children and prepare them for a world that will be much more difficult than that in which we boomers grew up.

His latest incarnation of the Christie Fiduciary Shell Game is nothing short of extortion – an area that he is familiar with as a former prosecutor.  What else would you call bribing school districts with some additional state aid provided that they freeze teachers’ salaries?

Teachers are well paid.  They should be.  They probably spend more time with our kids than most working parents are able to do.  Every teacher I have known spends his or her own money on school supplies for students and other accoutrements that the districts underfund.

Are there bad teachers?  Sure – just like there are bad salesmen, engineers, and even politicians.  But just like surgeons use a scalpel instead of an axe to operate on their patients, let’s be smart and not balance the state’s budget on simplistic schemes which offer more collateral damage than fixes.

There’s a lot wrong with the system today.  No other profession has “tenure” which enables formerly-competent individuals to occupy a job position well beyond their ability to contribute.  Like doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals, teachers need to be encouraged to stay up-to-date with latest developments in their profession, and tenure just levels the playing field for those who do not maintain their competency.  Also, just like people in other professions, teachers should have benefits and pensions, as well as salaries, commensurate with those of their peers. 

The vilification of teachers that spews from Trenton does not help our children.  Neither does diverting money from public education into charter schools.  The governor should tone down the rhetoric, recognize that school funding is a complex issue without simplistic solutions, and treat our teachers as valued partners in making New Jersey a better place to live.

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