Friday, June 25, 2010

Newark Teachers Face Tough Bargaining

Article #2 on the upcoming Newark teacher contract negotiations:

Joseph Del Grosso, the president of the NTU, said he's ready for changes, including merit pay and teacher evaluations, provided he has a say in the parameters.

"Whether we like it or not, changes are going to be made," he said in an interview at his Broad Street office, and it's better for the union to help shape the changes with its own ideas than to fight them.

No one expects Mr. Del Grosso to easily give up a lot of the teacher perks, but Mr. Del Grosso's stance on those issues are in stark contrast to the state's largest union group, the New Jersey Education Association, which is an affiliate of the National Education Association. The NJEA vociferously opposes Mr. Christie's call for merit pay and other changes. The NTU, meanwhile, is a local of the American Federation of Teachers.

Valerie Merritt, a spokeswoman for the Newark Public Schools, said last year's contract was an "excellent settlement" because "the mandatory teacher work year in Newark is now the highest in the state."

This year, however, some new players are planning to exert pressure on the negotiations.

"We have to have a performance-based model," said Shavar Jeffries, the newly elected president of the Newark advisory school board, who is also a law professor and civil-rights attorney at Seton Hall Law School.

Mr. Jeffries said that superintendent Clifford Janey told him he's on board with making bold changes to the contract, which expires this month. But Mr. Jeffries warned that he'd be a vocal opponent of a contract that falls short on those goals. Ms. Merritt had no comment on Mr. Jeffreies' remarks.

"Anything other than a groundbreaking contract is utterly unacceptable," said Derrell Bradford, executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone, a Newark-based, school-choice advocacy group. Starting next month, Mr. Bradford is sending groups of canvassers through the streets of Newark to educate residents about the teacher contract.

Mr. Del Grosso said he understands that there's very little money to work with for the next contract. As teachers, "we have to be realistic," he said. But, "I go into negotiations to get the best possible deal I can for my members."


  • JUNE 15, 2010

Newark Teachers Face Tough Bargaining

Union Braces for Leaner Contract in City Where New Jersey's Blunt-Talking Governor Has Control Over Struggling Schools


When New Jersey agreed last year to give Newark teachers a 5% raise for working an extra four days, the union announced the news in a memo that included two dollar signs in large type and declared: "no health benefits give-back!!"

One year later, the Newark Teachers Union is back at the negotiating table—and this time things may not work out so favorably. Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year implored taxpayers to vote down local budgets that did not freeze teacher pay. Because the Newark schools are controlled by the state, it is one of the few teacher contracts over which Mr. Christie actually has veto power.

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