Without a doubt, April was a bizarre month in New Jersey education news. First, Bergen County Education Association President Joe Coppola requested divine intervention and death by suffering for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Then, elementary students were asked – regardless of sex – to dress up as women to commemorate Women's History Month. Talk about bizarre. Let's begin with Cappola's plea. In what I'm sure he thought was a fit of hilarity, he wrote the following in an email to union leaders:
"Dear Lord, you've taken away my favorite actor Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer Michael Jackson and my favorite salesman Billy Mayes. I just want you to know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."
Why such harsh words, you ask? Like the rest of America, New Jersey is in a dire financial bind. In an effort to reduce cuts and to keep teachers employed, Christie has proposed that teachers agree to a one-year pay freeze. This, teamed with his request that educators contribute 1.5 percent of their income to cover medical benefits, has sent the unions reeling. According to FOX News,
Christie added that $820 million in state aid cuts, primarily for school lunches, art teachers and language classes, among other programs, wouldn't have to go if the teachers union would agree to a one-year pay freeze and to pay 1.5 percent of their salary toward their medical, dental and vision benefits.
While 11 local unions agreed, the union's central authority refuses to jump on board. Ironically, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and/or received no pay increases this year; many have fallen into poverty. With our nation and our individual states in such horrific financial shape, it's unconscionable that a body that represents a troop of public servants would refuse to allow educators to pay for their own health care, let alone give up a guaranteed raise. Has the union forgotten that it's bargaining with the peoples' money?
The real victims are, once again, the children who will go without necessary programming and resources. I'm convinced the union leaders would rather see insurmountable debt accumulate than compromise for the health and longevity of their state and nation. Teachers have a tough job and they're entitled to due compensation, but when it comes to a choice between essential programming cuts and asking teachers to do what the majority of society already does – contribute a small percentage of pay to their health care plan – the solution is clear.
In other news, in what one New Jersey school district has called a “misunderstanding,” parents are outraged. Third-grade children (boys included) were asked to dress up in women's clothing to commemorate Women's History Month. According to a letter sent home to parents,
"If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt, as there are many time periods where women wore jeans, pants and trousers. However, each child must be able to express what time period their outfit is from. Most of all, your child should have fun creating their outfit and learning about how women's clothing has changed!"
While the “cross-dressing” extravaganza has been cancelled, one cannot help but ask: What's going on in New Jersey? Both scenarios make it clear: Something's definitely in the water.