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AFTNJ’s objective is to promote state wide organization and unionization of public and private school teachers, paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; other workers organized in conformity with More »

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From the state’s largest school district to small privates, AFTNJ stands up for New Jersey’s students. Our members teach early childhood education to prepare kids for school, special education and every topic More »

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Higher Education

The American Federation of Teachers New Jersey is the largest higher education union in the state, representing full and part-time faculty, all levels of administrative, professional and supervisory staff, graduate workers, and More »

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AFTNJ Activism

AFTNJ members advocate for education and stand up for social justice. More »

Union Township, Kean U battle over taxes on bookstore, restaurant

By Tom Haydon, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

UNION — In the continually combative relationship between the township and Kean University, Mayor Manuel Figueiredo is now criticizing the school for refusing to pay property taxes on its bookstore and an on-campus restaurant.

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Teachers’ union, student group fights Newark’s designation of 9 struggling schools

By Naomi Nix, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

NEWARK — Newark Public Schools announced this week that nine schools will become “turnaround schools” during the next school year in an effort to curb struggling performance.

The designation will mean that teachers will be asked to sign election-to-work agreements, which may require them to work for a longer school day, go through two additional weeks of professional development in the summer and work on multiple Saturdays, assistant superintendent Brad Haggerty said.

[...]

John Abeigon, director of operations for the Newark Teachers Union, said the union conducted a survey about two months ago of teachers who are working under election-to-work agreements in renew and turnaround schools.

Of the 262 responding teachers who signed those agreements during the 2014-2015 school year, almost 44 percent said they did not plan to sign up again next year, according to Abeigon.

“Cami is going to have a little bit of chaos next year,” he said referring to superintendent Cami Anderson.

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Adjuncts: The Cash Cows of MSU

By Daniel Borja, Columnist

The gradual increase in student enrollment and tuition fees are lucrative opportunities for the administration at Montclair State University. For adjunct professors, however, the growing number of students and tuition fees do not mean an increase in their low-wage salaries.

In the fall of 2014, student enrollment rose to 15,885 and with the growing number of transfer and freshman students, Montclair State’s student population will continue to increase in the next few years. This rise in student enrollment should present itself as an opportunity to the adjunct faculty for better working conditions and salaries. Instead, conditions remain the same: part-time employment, no job guarantee at the end of a contract (usually one-semester contracts to teach a specific class), no health and retirement benefits and reliance on teaching at multiple institutions to generate a sustainable income. Seeing how tuition fees and student enrollment are rising, shouldn’t this increase in numbers reciprocate and generate more health and teaching benefits for the adjunct faculty?

Robert W. Noonan, President of Local 6025, the union that represents adjunct professors at Montclair State, says that the average adjunct professor makes $3,875 per 3-credit course.

“When you lose state aid, you offset it by raising tuition,” said President Noonan, “by increasing the number of low paid adjuncts; the adjuncts and students become the cash cows of the university.”

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Christie Earns Criticism, Kudos for His Higher-Education Policies in NJ

By Tara Nurin

The governor’s critics cite his sizable funding cuts, but Christie has presided over a massive remaking of higher education in the state

Gov. Chris Christie’s critics in higher education — both at the schools and in the Legislature — are right to point out that he’s made serious funding cuts to programs, departments, and colleges and universities. In the process, he’s also pushed more of the costs of education onto students and their families.

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N.J. not ‘investing adequately’ in higher education, college president tells budget committee

By Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON — Montclair State University has more students, classroom space and on-campus housing than it did 15 years ago.

But the percentage of its budget funded by the state is lower now than it was in 2000, University President Susan Cole said Wednesday, and the school will get even less direct support under Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed 2015-16 budget.

“We are not investing adequately in our statewide public education institutions,” Cole said.

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Will Newark ever get control back of its schools using the state’s procedures?

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for

NEWARK — This week marks the 20th anniversary of when administrative law judge Stephen Weiss ruled that the Newark school district was so mired by failure that the state could bypass the normal hearing process and assume state control.

Amid the two-decade long debate about state control in Newark one question has surfaced over and over again: What is the state’s exit plan?

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Rutgers merger may hike tuition

By Patricia Alex, staff writer, The Record

TRENTON — State officials long insisted that the cost of the huge Rutgers medical school merger would not be borne by students, but the university president conceded on Wednesday that those expenses made it difficult to avoid tuition increases.

“Fifty million dollars would go a long way in keeping the cost of tuition down,” said President Robert Barchi, referring to the total that has been spent to date on the reorganization.

Barchi spoke at an Assembly budget hearing in Trenton, where school leaders grappled with declining state support that has contributed to making New Jersey’s public colleges and universities among the most expensive in the nation.

Rutgers absorbed the bulk of the debt-laden University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2013 in one of the largest academic mergers ever. The move — pushed by Governor Christie and approved by the Legislature — increased the size, scope and prestige of the state university. But it came with costs — mostly for such professional services as legal work and bond refinancing.

Barchi said it would be a couple of years before Rutgers was clear of those expenses, with an estimated $17 million to $25 million more to be spent on the move.

Barchi called the costs an “unfunded mandate” and, in response to a question about what efforts were made to prevent tuition increases, told legislators that he might have been able to keep tuition flat without the merger expenses.

In the run-up to the merger, Rutgers insisted — and Christie assured the public — that the move wouldn’t affect tuition and that other budget adjustments would be made to accommodate the costs.

“The commitment that President Barchi made to me and made to the Legislature was that those costs would be paid for |out of savings at the university and not out of higher tuition or more money from the state,” the governor said on a call-in radio show in 2013. “The fact is that |if you’re a manager who will |now be running a $4 billion company and you can’t find $70 million in savings somewhere, then you’re not very much of a manager, and he is a very good manager.”

But after the hearing on Wednesday, Barchi said that “everything we’ve done to reduce costs is eaten up by the $50 million” and said that money could have helped keep tuition down.

However, when reminded about the pre-merger promises, he insisted that the $50 million cost had not been passed on to students. And he noted that Rutgers tuition increases had been in the 2 percent range for the past few years, a rate he said is low.

Rutgers students have complained for years about the cumulative effects of increases that have pushed tuition and fees over $13,000 at the flagship campus.

“Every semester that I’ve been at New Brunswick, my tuition has seen an increase,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, a senior from Newark. “I’m not sure if it’s attributable to the merger or what.”

The squeeze is not expected to improve under the Christie administration’s proposed $1.5 billion higher education budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. The total is an overall decrease of about 1.2 percent, according to the state’s Office of Legislative Services.

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N.J. pension fund heads to investigate investment fees and bonuses to private companies

By Samantha Marcus, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON — The heads of New Jersey’s largest pension funds, skeptical of the hundreds of millions of dollars in investment fees and bonuses paid to private companies, say they plan to launch a probe into how the state awards those fees.

The Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted to conduct a forensic audit of the fund’s expenses, following a similar vote earlier this week by the trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.

Fees and bonuses for the pension fund’s investments hit a high last year. The state spent roughly $265 million on management fees and expenses and $335 million on performance bonuses, which are referred to as “performance allocation” in a State Investment Council annual report.

“Why are we paying that kind of money?” said Wayne Hall, chairman of the PFRS Board of Trustees. “When I see the exorbitant fees the state has been paying for the last couple of years, I have to question that.”

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Unionization Pays Off for Community-College Instructors

By Peter Schmidt

Being represented by a union appears to pay big financial dividends for full-time instructors at community colleges, a new study concludes.

Depending on the size, location, and public-financing sources of their institution, unionized full-time instructors earn from about 5 to 50 percent more in pay and benefits than do their nonunionized peers at similar community colleges, says a paper summarizing the study’s results.

“The differences are stunning,” says Stephen G. Katsinas, a professor of higher education at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who is one of the study’s three co-authors.

Among the forces influencing how much community colleges pay their instructors, “collective bargaining, in itself, matters,” says Mr. Katsinas, who plans to present the study’s findings in New York on Sunday, at an annual conference held by the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.

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‘One Newark’ Reorganization Kicks Off Second Year, Learning From the First

Three-quarters of families selecting schools for their kids won placement at one of three top choices

By John Mooney

Year two of the “One Newark” school reorganization plan for the state-run district may prove even more crucial to its success or failure than its controversial debut year.

And, from the district’s perspective, at least, it’s been so far, so good.

Superintendent Cami Anderson yesterday released the results of the first stage of the universal enrollment system for 2015-16, reporting that three-quarters of the families choosing schools had their children approved for one of their top three choices for the next school year.

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