Spadea: NJEA is right to oppose merging school districts (Opinion)
You never know what you're gonna get on a Monday morning on the show.
This Monday I found myself agreeing with the...wait...yes, really...the NJEA. The Senate president gathered a group of accountants to tell him what he should've already known. The cost of running everything related to NJ government is too high. One suggestion that the group had was to consolidate New Jersey school districts.
Now, I realize that we have more districts than towns in NJ. And we all realize that the cost of the administrative staff and pensions and benefits are more than the tax base can realistically support. That said, we do have a top rated school system compared to the rest of the nation with only Massachusetts ranking higher, according to a recent study.
Mandated consolidation from the state may not have any impact on finances as there is no indication of how it would even be accomplished. That said, even if you fired every superintendent and a good percentage of the bureaucracy, we wouldn't come close to dealing with the more than $100 billion in future unfunded liabilities on pensions and benefits to government workers. You would however, have the potential of disrupting local schools and usurping 'home rule' creating even greater power in Trenton over local towns.
Look at how Sweeney and Christie mishandled Atlantic City. After the mayor complied with every direction they gave him, they still swooped in and placed the elite insiders in charge forcing layoffs among firefighters even after the local cops took a pay hit. Think they won't do the same to teachers?
You can't trust politicians who have shown themselves to be nothing more than reckless with our money. They say one thing and do another.
I had a conversation on Monday after the show with Steve Baker from the NJEA. He told me that they are actually in favor of consolidation if it is done voluntarily at the local level. We can see a great example of this in my own local school distract with the kids in Cranbury attending Princeton HS.
It's time for Steve Sweeney and Governor Murphy to stop the bickering and the sounds bites designed to satisfy their own special interests. It's time to get the elite insiders out of the education business. It's time to push back every time the sneaky pols in Trenton come up with another way to maintain their strangle hold on our state. If the state is going to get out from under the mess of debt and unfunded liabilities, it requires a bold, across the board solution of renegotiating health benefits and creating a transition for public workers to move into 403B plans. Then cut the size of state government before thinking about breaking the education system which is one of the few things working well in Jersey.
The NJEA has their own problems and should be admonished for thwarting past plans to address the pension and benefit crisis. They shouldn't be let off the hook for past issues. However, we're not going to get any meaningful changes lowering property taxes unless we have a comprehensive plan that changes pensions and benefits for all government workers except cops and firefighters. Forcing consolidation of school districts from Trenton may actually make the problem worse.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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