Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Special Interests?

According to stuff I'm hearing on Facebook, Chris Christie now claims that he wants a longer school day and longer school year, but "special interests" are blocking him.

Now, this article is rather vague. All it says is that Christie wants more hours of classroom time and the Teachers like having the summer off. It doesn't tell us anything about the negotiation or Christie's proposals or even who blocked them. But let's start with his accusation.

Yes, many teachers enjoy having the summer off. Many are parents of school-age children and find it convenient to be on the same schedule as their children so that they don't need child care. If the whole state increases the school year, that won't be an issue. Other teachers simply enjoy a long vacation. Christie seems to be implying that there's something wrong with taking a 10-month job, with commensurate pay, and then enjoying the time off. That seems quite ethical to me.

Of course, the implication is that the teachers like the time off so much that they refuse to negotiate for a longer year. That has me wondering, because I know many teachers who believe that a longer school year would be beneficial. However, they can't afford to work a longer year at their current salaries because right now they use the time in the summer to work a second job. Losing that income would be a problem.

And that makes me wonder whether Christie offered to pay the teachers for the extra time he wants them to work. Actually, since the Governor doesn't decide the pay of teachers (districts do) I wonder if the teachers are even the problem. Perhaps the districts told the Governor that they can't afford to pay the teachers for extra time without raising taxes.

Or maybe the teachers asked Governor Christie how the extra time is to be used. See, extra time in the classroom doesn't magically improve student performance. You have to use the time productively. A longer school day may or may not help--it depends how tired students are at the end of the day. And a longer year won't help if the time is just spent on more test prep.

And then there's money for facilities. Many schools in New Jersey are not equipped with air conditioning. I'm not saying that air conditioning is a necessity, but if I was a teacher negotiating a longer school year, I'd sure be asking for it. Teaching a room full of kids in NJ in July or August without air conditioning would be a tough job for even the best teacher.

Or maybe the Special Interests the Governor refers to are parents who don't want their kids in school all year round because they should have some time to play. Or because the parents want to send their kids to camp so they can have some alone time. Or because they want to take family vacations around the world. Lots of people think summer vacation is a necessity for children.

I'm really tired of the Governor making these vague comments that make teachers look lazy. Give us the details. With whom were you negotiating (and on what basis, since the State doesn't negotiate teacher contracts) what was your suggestion, and what was the objection to your plan? What you're saying now means nothing.

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