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February 2012

Love and Shared Sacrifice

Christie’s proposed NJ income tax cut would largely benefit state’s wealthier residents

N.J.’s failure to make full pension payments hinders fund

Bill Introduced to Reform Tenure Inside: Favia’s message, Calendar of events, Good housekeeping Greco’s notes, Spring trips, Slowing down charters Tax cuts, Pension woes, Condo deals, and more

Politicians as Reformers

Jersey City Education Association 1600 John F Kennedy Boulevard Jersey City NJ 07305 201.435.6600 February 2012 Fifth Edition


Jersey City Education Association 1600 John F Kennedy Boulevard Jersey City New Jersey 07305 Phone 201.435.6600 Fax 201.435.1111

www.jcea.org Office Staff Marilyn Molina-Douglas Marisol Cifuentes Jasmine Rubert

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Christie’s personal vendetta against the NJEA and his proposed reforms will radically change public education and not for the better.

tCap Media LLC PO Box 3297 Bayonne NJ 07002


Dear Colleagues, We are now at the half way mark of our school year. We have escaped the snow storms and once we get by February, spring is right around the corner. My theory has always been: Even if it snows in March, it doesn’t stay around for long! So far we have seen some changes, having a new superintendent for at least July 1st 2012. It still seems a little strange not having Dr. Epps around calling the shots. What has happened since his departure could change the operation of the Board of Education and the ability of the new superintendent to govern. The commissioner has sent a monitor to oversee the running of the school system with veto power over personnel and curriculum. The person assigned by the commissioner is no stranger to the district. I will not at this time pre-judge her role only to say that I don’t like the state’s interference in our district. One thing is certain, she knows our district, knows we have good teachers, and knows the dynamics of our city and our students. She, at least, is someone who understands the problems of urban education and I believe she is not an advocate of vouchers and charter schools. In any case, we will make our assessments of her role and judgments as we pass through this period of time. Maybe supervisors and administrators will be held more accountable for their errors. I haven’t seen any administrators or supervisors demoted or denied an increment in the last 25 years. There have been two or three that lost their position because of misconduct but not a performance or an evaluation. I would like to know what their evaluation process is. This past year we have had over 45 denials of increments. The union, as always, is in the process of challenging all of them. I haven’t seen such behavior like this in my entire career in Jersey City, which spans over 50 years. What I personally dislike is some of our co-workers berating each other openly. It is not professional and it’s certainly not what TRUE union people do. The real issue confronting us is the Board of Education’s role in choosing a new superintendent. What concerns me most is the commissioner’s role in the selection process. You can rest assured, if he does; it is going to be a reformer. In this selection process, if the candidates come out of the broad foundation - the superintendent’s academy to which this commissioner has strong ties - then you will get a reformer who will support the philosophies of our commissioner and our governor. We have three schools presently under the new state’s evaluation system. The state’s plan is to introduce this new evaluation procedure state wide in September 2012. I have my doubts if the state can achieve its goal because of the volume of information they need. If they can’t institute their plan next year, it will be the year after. As long as Christie is governor, he will continue to attack public education and collective bargaining. In closing, these are difficult times and it has never been more important to have us United. If you are watching our fellow teachers in Wisconsin and Ohio fighting for their rights, remember this battle is YOUR battle also. We must all stay United now more than ever. Read your NJEA Reporter and NJ Review to keep up to date. Enjoy the rest of the winter knowing that spring will soon be here. Stay tuned, stay healthy, and most of all, stay united. Sincerely, Thomas Favia


Allow me to thank those of you who attended the January Board of Education meeting. It was a good show of support for Mr. Franklin Walker, Interim Superintendent of Schools. However, as the months progress and we move closer to selecting a new superintendent, it is imperative that we stay abreast of what is transpiring in the district. I would like to see more of you at the monthly Board of Education meetings, wearing your shirts and pins and other identifying items so the publicc sees we are a force in the community. Be reminded that this is an effort that we must all be united in, teachers, assistants, teacher aides, secretaries, custodians, food service, security, bus drivers, and administrators. To that end, I am challenging each school, to see how many staff members you can deliver, at the upcoming Board of Education meetings. The school that has the highest number of attendees at the meetings will join me for lunch from the Prince of Pizza. The staff members that attend may MANGIA, MANGIA! Below, is a schedule of future Board of Education meetings. All meetings take place at School No. 11 and are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Looking forward to seeing you in February at the meeting!

Thursday, February 23, 2012 Thursday, March 29, 2012 Tuesday, April 17, 2012 School Board Election, Get out and Vote!!! Thursday, April 26, 2012 Reorganization and Regular Monthly Meeting Thursday, May 17, 2012 Thursday, June 21, 2012

N.J.’s failure to make full pension payments hinders fund TRENTON — The health of New Jersey’s pension funds received a boost from the landmark overhaul initiated by Gov. Chris Christie, but reports show they are still hampered by the state’s failure to meet its financial obligations. Christie joined with Democratic leaders last year to shift a greater share of the pension burden to public workers and to end cost-ofliving increases for current and future retirees. The legislation helped drive down the state’s unfunded pension liability from $53.9 billion to $36.3 billion when the administration revised its figures for fiscal 2010, according to the actuarial reports made public on Tuesday. But the reports also show the hole in the pension fund climbed to $41.8 billion — an increase of $5.5 billion — by the end of fiscal 2011, the result of Christie following in the tradition of his recent predecessors and skipping the state’s pension payment. Overall, the state has $86.7 billion in pension fund assets, but has pledged $128.5 billion in benefits, the report shows. As a result, the state has only 67 percent of the money it needs to meet its future pension obligations, and that figure is expected to worsen as the state phases in its full pension payments over the next seven years. “This is not a surprise,” Andy Pratt, a spokesman for the state Treasury Department, said. “The funded ratio was always going to dip because of the phased-in payments. But the governor’s plan reduced the unfunded liability by $20 billion and put the funds on a path to solvency.” The state should be paying about $3.3 billion into the pension fund this year, but will kick in about $468 million. And in the budget for fiscal 2013, the state will only pay about $900 million of its $3 billion bill, records show. As part of a measure that passed in 2010, the state will increase its payments by one-seventh each year over the next seven years. Experts have compared this with a homeowner who takes out a mortgage and makes only partial payments for seven years. Then, after those seven years, the missed payments are added and the homeowner is saddled with a much bigger mortgage and higher monthly payments. By 2018, state taxpayers will begin paying more than $5 billion a year for pensions, about 10 times higher than the payment being made in the budget for fiscal 2012, which ends on June 30, according to administration estimates.


Welcome Interim Superintendent Walker.

You have a large task in front of you; however, I am confident you will be successful in your endeavor. I look forward to working with you in advancing our district’s core mission of a top notch education for each child. Congratulations and the best of luck, to you. Now, let’s share a few laughs, after watching Big Blue to blow out New England… *”You Know Who” was testing the porridge, while the three bears were out visiting her cousin, Curlylocks, intoxicated from denying fifths! *How about that sorry place near the Junction…the posse in the office intimidating and belittling staff when they’re called in the queen’s office. Let’s see you ATTEMPT interact with the children! RETIRE! *Get those bulletin boards up to snuff, that’s what makes an effective early childhood teacher. Another one trying to make a name for them …Let’s see you change diapers and brush the children’s teeth. Get a life, youngster! *Now that Kim Jong II has passed away, North Korean officials have made arrangements with us to place Goldilocks on consignment, to mentor the late dictator’s son Kim Jong-un, on how to oppress the masses, prey on the weak and rule with an iron fist. *”You’re lying on Me!!!” Listen; stop plotting on the principal so you can get paid. You know it’s not the administrators fault, NEVER! It’s the Associate Sup’s, or is it the Vice Principal, or is it the tooth fairy? No, it’s ME! I control the payroll LOL LOL Imagine that ignoramus saying that in the auditorium, while I’m sitting there! *Hang in there gang, maybe they’ll move that brut back to Central Office after they drive the morale and test scores down through the ground. What’d they call you, “a bunch of animals?” Somebody, record this sorry excuse for a principal. *I was bestowed with the distinct privilege and honor of having my column in the December issue of “The JCEA Communicator” posted on Chief Red Cheeks “information wall” with a vulgar word scribbled across my face. I LOVE it; I’ve got the pic on my desk!!! Glad I’m getting to you sweetheart! Keep it up! On December 16, School 28 lost a friend, in the passing of Odette Oyola-Reyes. Odette was a teacher assistant with the Jersey City Public Schools for the past 14 years. She had a contagious laugh and smile and was a role model to the children she served and mentored, over the years. Our condolences, prayers and good wishes go out to her family at this difficult time. May you rest in Peace and God Bless you, Odette.


NEWS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

Franklin Development Group, LLC 46 Church Street Montclair, NJ 07042 Media contact: Nick Kraus/973-998-5742 or nkraus@krausgroupmarketing.com

LUXURY CONDO OWNERSHIP AT SUMMIT HEIGHTS CONDOMINIUMS IS NOW EASIER THANKS TO GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES FOR MIDDLE CLASS BUYERS $75,000 from State of N.J. Helping to Draw Buyers Back to Jersey City’s Heights Section

JERSEY CITY, N.J., January 10, 2012 –The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency’s Workforce housing opportunity is making condo ownership in Jersey City easier with a $75,000 incentive for qualified middle-class buyers. Program participant Franklin Development Group, a development, construction, and real estate management firm based in Montclair, N.J., reports that due to the success of the incentive program, only three units remain in its luxury Summit Heights Condominium, located in popular Jersey City Heights. The premium two-bedroom units—appointed with upscale features and amenities typically found in apartments twice their price—are available for immediate occupancy. Summit Heights’ participation in the program—which aims to bring more working people back to cities with strong transportation hubs and employment centers—reduces the mortgage on its spacious 1100-square-foot apartments to $268,000 with a down payment of only 3.5%. In addition to the $75,000 government incentive, Franklin Development Group will pay up to $8000 towards the closing costs on the three remaining units as part of this builder closeout. “We urge home buyers on the market for a luxury condominium to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Paul Debellis, Jr., director of marketing for Franklin Development Group. “Summit Heights offers unique features that make these units an even better value in today’s real estate market.” To qualify for the government incentive, applicants must make a minimum of $65,000 a year and have a credit score of at least 600. Summit Heights, which overlooks Manhattan, is within walking distance of major transportation (bus, light rail, PATH), shopping, and parks, with an easy commute to employment hubs in downtown Jersey City as well as New York City. The units are larger than many other two-bedrooms on the market by several hundred square feet. In addition to elegant kitchens and wood floors, each unit in the LEED-certified building includes a deeded parking space that belongs to the condo owner in a private garage. There is also a private fitness center for tenants with a New York view. Summit Heights Condominiums are located at 1201 Summit Avenue in Jersey City, at the corner of Secaucus Road. For more information call (201) 946-5092 or visit http://franklinluxurycondos.com/summitheights.html.

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Christie’s income tax cut will aid N.J.’s wealthiest

Evidence is mounting that Gov. Chris Christie’s plans for an across-the-board income tax cut will primarily benefit New Jersey’s wealthiest class while doing little to ease the property tax burden on the middle class. The latest analysis shows that the average family’s net property taxes — the amount paid after rebates and credits — consume a higher percentage of household income than at any time under Jon Corzine. Or any other governor, for that matter. The analysis, published by NJ Spotlight, made the case that when property tax credits and rebates are included — 2011 figures were released Friday — the average New Jersey homeowner paid $7,519 in net property taxes last year, compared with $6,244 in 2009, the last year of the Corzine administration. That’s a 20 percent increase. More specifically, in 2010 and 2011, the average household paid 11 percent to 12 percent of its annual income in property taxes. By the end of the Corzine years, that figure was never more than 10 percent. When Christie unveiled his 10 percent income tax cut plan earlier this month, his stated goal was to make New Jersey more competitive for jobs. The income tax cut will save $275 a year for a family earning $100,000. Meanwhile, Christie cut that same household’s property tax rebates from more than $1,000 a year under Corzine to $0 in 2010 and $240 in 2011. As a rule, income tax cuts benefit wealthy taxpayers more than property tax cuts. Christie’s team points to the spending controls he pushed through during his first two years in office. His moves to cap property tax hikes, reform public employee pensions and benefits, and limit union bargaining deserve high praise for tempering government spending. But taxpayers want lower property taxes, not just slower-growing ones. Give Christie credit for correcting course, but an honest assessment of the bottom line is necessary to keep up momentum. And the bottom line says that, in terms of property taxes, we’re worse off today than under Corzine. Simply put, Christie’s gunning for the wrong tax. New Jersey’s income and gasoline taxes are the lowest around. There’s wiggle room in the sales tax, too. If Christie wants to make New Jersey more competitive, he must attack its competitive weakness. That’s property taxes.

So much for ‘shared sacrifice’.

Bill to change N.J. teacher tenure rules is reintroduced by lawmaker TRENTON — The head of the Senate Education Committee is reintroducing a bill to revise teacher tenure rules in New Jersey. Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has been working for months to craft a measure that could gain acceptance by the Legislature, Gov. Chris Christie and the teachers’ union. The new bill assigns teachers to one of four categories after annual evaluations: highly effective, effective, partially effective, and ineffective. The assessments will look at classroom practices and student progress. The bill also proposes using the performance categories as the first factor to determine layoffs, followed by seniority. Ruiz introduced the bill last month but pulled it to make tweaks. New Jersey Education Association spokesman Steve Wollmer says the union is evaluating the new bill.


Assembly Committee Votes to Put Charters Under Local Control Bill calls for local referendum on any school that wants to be granted a charter in a NJ district By John Mooney, NJSpotlight.com

The Christie administration’s slowdown in approving charter schools in the suburbs hasn’t slowed the push by Assembly Democrats to tighten controls on all charters -- possibly imperiling a slew of schools awaiting their final OK. The Assembly education committee yesterday moved a bill that would give local voters the right to approve new charters in their home districts. If passed by both houses, the law would make New Jersey only the third state to require charter schools to face a local referendum. First proposed last year, the new bill has been toughened for the new session. Amendments filed with the bill would make those referendums retroactive for as many as 30 urban and suburban schools awaiting their final charters. The votes would come after the state’s preliminary approval, but often as much as a year can lapse before the final charter is granted and a school can open. A new amendment would also require an up-or-down local vote for all schools looking to expand beyond their current charters, a potential blow to some of the larger, more established charters in the state that have added schools to their networks. “There are folks who want a moratorium on them entirely,” said state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), the chief sponsor of the bill and the education committee’s chairman. “I don’t want to go that far, because I think charter schools do have a place,” he said after the hearing. “But the people need to have a say.” The big question remains whether the bill, the most controversial of a host of charter school bills first proposed in the Assembly and Senate last year, will ever pass both houses with margins large enough. Gov. Chris Christie is not expected to support it, but he has lately sent some mixed messages on the extent of charter school growth in the state, and especially in better-performing suburban districts. His administration approved a small class of eight new charters last month, all of them in cities. And in a town hall meeting in Voorhees, Christie even indicated some support for the local referendum bill -- at least for higher-performing communities. But the local referendum bill may never get to the governor’s desk, since the Senate has yet to take up the measure. State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has previously said she is opposed to the local referendum, contending it would stop charters altogether. She and others have also talked about a more comprehensive rewrite of the charter school law that she said would address many of the concerns. Read more at NJSpotlight.com


February 2012