OPINION: Bipartisan Education Reform Threatens Special Interests
From The NJ Spotlight:
What’s wrong with this picture?
Last week Democratic heavyweight George Norcross got up on a stage with Gov. Chris Christie to announce that not only does he support the Opportunity Scholarship Act (the voucher bill) but also he’s opening charter schools Camden.
To add to the cognitive dissonance, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) joined forces with the nepotistic Elizabeth school board to campaign against Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), the former chair of the NJ Democratic party — and the chief sponsor of the school voucher bill.
o muddy matters further, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), a steadfast ally of the teachers union, looks likely to overcome her initial opposition to a health and pension benefits reform bill — despite protestations from NJEA leaders. The legislation would require public employees, including teachers, to contribute substantially more than the current 1.5 percent of base pay toward pension and healthcare premiums. (The Assembly Budget Committee just announced it will hear the bill on Monday.)
These reversals of fortune for the beleaguered union are not mitigated by the oft-repeated statistic that the NJEA spent more than $6.6 million last year on TV spots, print ads and billboards. Now the NJEA is using members’ dues to tow banners over the Jersey Shore stamped “Millionaires for Christie.com,” while startled beach-goers wonder if the irony is in the medium or the message.
Note to the NJEA: It’s time for a strategy makeover.
First, a primer on party affiliations:
- President Obama, an education reform advocate, is a Democrat
- U.S. Education Commissioner Arne Duncan, architect of the federal Race To The Top, is a Democrat
- Chris Cerf, Gov. Christie’s choice for Commissioner of the NJ Department of Education, is a Democrat
- Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, director of the New Jersey Black Minister’s Council and staunch voucher and charter school supporter, is a Democrat
- Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor who just announced legislation to raise the retirement age for public workers and lower benefits is — you guessed it — a Democrat
In both policy and politics, education reform is neither red nor blue. It’s purple.