Quote of the DayFebruary 8, 2012
Quote of the DayFebruary 9, 2012
Just when the Governor and the leadership of NJEA appeared to be mending some fences over issues like tenure reform and the Urban Hope Act, a foot-in-mouth moment for NJEA Executive President Vince Giordano has spawned a volley of sharp-edged repartee. And just now Ed. Comm. Cerf has released a statement that attacks NJEA’s leaders for minimizing NJ’s intractable achievement gap between whites and minorities.
Where to begin? Let’s start with Mr. Giordano’s Romney moment on N.J. Capitol Report, a political talk show. Giordano was asked a question about the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a voucher program that would provide corporate-sponsored scholarships to poor kids in a few of our poorest cities. Commenting about how the poor can’t always attend private and charter schools, Giordano said, “Life’s not always fair and I’m sorry about that.” (Star-Ledger)
Cringe. Extract foot from mouth. Gov. Christie, never one to not seize a moment, emoted,
“I cannot express how disgusted I am by that statement by the head of the largest teachers union in our state,” he said at a press conference in Westfield, “but I also have to tell you I’m not the least bit surprised because I think it so succinctly captures what their real position is.”
Then the governor took a personal swipe: “As Vince drives out of the palace on State Street in his big luxury car and his $500,000 salary. I’m sure life’s really fair for him, and if Vince’s kids were in a failing school district he could afford to send them to any school in New Jersey that could help them succeed.”
So the Governor demanded that NJEA President Barbara Keshishian fire Giordano. (Not sure she has that authority, but whatever.) NJEA was outraged: said spokesman Steve Wollmer, “He’s been demonizing us for two-and-a-half years now. This is an insult of the highest order.” And anyway, says Wollmer, Giordano doesn’t really make $500K because that figure includes benefits and also $127K in formula-based pension liability and “he doesn’t get to spend any of that on groceries.”
Someone call Meals on Wheels.
Giordano wrote an email:
NJEA’s record of support for urban education and disadvantaged children is unimpeachable. For decades, we have supported better funding for urban schools to promote equal educational opportunity, and school improvement efforts like universal preschool and literacy programs…We oppose vouchers (the OSA program) and other privatization programs because they will take resources from disadvantaged public schools and only exacerbate the challenges faced by students in those communities.
Now, OSA is structured in such a way as to pose no threat to the public district. And NJEA has other reasons for opposition to OSA, including the fact that private and parochial schools can be staffed by non-unionized teachers.
So let’s exorcise our inner drama queens for a moment because these histrionics actually point to an important issue, one that divides not only NJEA and Gov. Christie, but ed reformers as well. How does one measure the value of rescuing some small number of children from a bleak education system against the possible diminution of resources for the kids who remain stranded? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? Or is that intrinsically unfair, given that wealthier parents never make that choice in NJ, because they can always move to a better district or send their kids to private school?