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Equal Pay Can’t Wait: Senate Labor Committee advances bill

The Senate Labor Committee voted 3-0-1 to move out of committee legislation concerning equal pay for women and helping…

Posted by AFT New Jersey on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chiera Testimony: Equal Pay Can’t Wait

For the Senate Labor Committee:

Donna M. Chiera testifies at Senate Labor Committee

Donna M. Chiera testifies at Senate Labor Committee

When I started teaching more than three decades ago the profession was low-paid and comprised of a mostly female workforce. We suffered with low salaries for decades. Collectively bargained salary guides accounting for both experience and education have gone a long way towards addressing pay inequality within the ranks of professional educators in the schools, but it is still not enough.

Please see the New Jersey Women and the Wage Gap fact sheet, which shows:

  • Women in New Jersey are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men,
  • The data show that this gender wage gap is present across industry, occupation and even education level,
  • More than 441,000 family households in New Jersey are headed by women and approximately a quarter of these households live below the poverty level.

Being one of four sisters who were all teachers and nurses—traditionally thought of as “women’s work” —we all knew we would never be rich and famous, but we all found great satisfaction in helping others. I remember clearly the bad old days when men in the district would be moved into athletics coaching and extracurricular activities that offer stipends and more likely to be hired into district administration with higher salaries with the explicit explanation of: “They have a family to support.”

We know by the numbers that this justification is false and used only to prop up an unjust system that rewards men doing the same work with something like a 25% premium. They earn that extra money by simply not being female—a feat they accomplished with very little effort. It did not require education, study or practice on their parts. They were simple born into it. We see clearly that the data show the wrongheadedness expressed by: “They have a family to support” bonuses for men with no corresponding consideration for women who are often single providers for households with dependent children.

We need to be armed with information to fight against this unfairness and this is one thing this legislation will provide. Further, we need to remove the time barriers to justice and this legislation addresses that. The gender wage gap is not new—neither is it getting significantly better and we need to address it now. We also need to keep an eye out for women—like Lilly Ledbetter—who suffered from wage discrimination for decades and correct these longstanding injustices on an individual as well as collective basis.  Lilly Ledbetter found out she was being paid less than her male counterparts for nearly two decades when she was a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant. And then she made the decision to fight back.

This legislation would help Lilly Ledbetter’s in New Jersey who have been discriminated against for longer than we want to think about. We need to pass this legislation and it deserves bi-partisan support and a signature from the Governor.

My sisters and I might have earned more if we were brothers instead of sisters, but this legislation is about our daughters, our nieces and our granddaughters—the next generations of Lilly Ledbetters who want to make a significant contribution to our society. They deserve the consideration that they may be equally responsible (sometimes more so) for “taking care of their families” as their male counterparts if they so choose.  Whether taking care of families or making their own way in the world, they deserve the dignity and respect of fair wages and this legislation could be another tool to help them along the way.

Perth Amboy Teacher Lemongelli Selected for State Leadership Board

“Wouldn’t it be great to have classroom teachers across the state talking collaboratively about how to improve the culture and learning climate in their schools?” asks Perth Amboy High School language arts teacher Stacy Lemongelli. Now the National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) is a step closer to that aspirational goal with her selection to a teacher leadership advisory board, newly created by state legislation.

Perth Amboy Teachers National Board Certified Teacher recognition

(Left to right): AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera with current Perth Amboy teachers Lynne Audet, Elizabeth Mazzeo, Cecilia Crespo, Rebecca McLelland-Crawley, and Stacy Lemongelli at National Board Certified Teacher certification and renewal recognition event

Lemongelli has been mentoring other teachers for more than 20 years—helping them be more aware of what works by modeling effective practices. She is continuously engaged in training focused on self-reflection to review what is working with her students and looking for new and innovative ways to share lessons with kids and colleagues alike, according to Perth Amboy Federation-American Federation of Teachers president Pat Paradiso, who nominated Lemongelli for the board.

The 11-member board will make recommendations for training needed to earn a state “teacher leader” endorsement created by New Jersey legislation last year. The designation is intended for teachers who will formally play an educational leadership role within their schools without leaving the classroom to become part of school administration.

The training program will require a minimum of 12 graduate credits or 180 hours of study. Lemongelli said she and the rest of the advisory board—five teachers and six administrators—are discussing the requirement to be eligible to receive the endorsement. “We want to make sure the program will be aligned with teacher leader model standards,” she said.

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex, a bill sponsor, is quoted as saying, “We must encourage and support our most dedicated, innovative educators to expand their roles and become professional leaders in their field. Fellow educators, schools and students will benefit greatly from their expertise.”

AFTNJ president Donna M. Chiera said that state Department of Education thanked her for the quality of the teachers AFT nominated to the board. Lemongelli was selected from the group of other AFT teachers based on her excellent record Chiera said. Lemongelli originally achieved rigorous national board certification in 2004 then recertified in 2014. She participated in a teacher leadership program within the district then attended the AFT summer institute last year learning more about differentiated instruction, text selection and making sure special education and English language learner curriculum is consistent with the common core.

“I believe in my heart in professional development and that teachers should be trusted and empowered to contribute to our profession,” said Lemongelli. “My goal on the advisory board is to maintain the integrity of the endorsement so it will be effective.”

The board is charged with issuing recommendations this year.

Op-Ed: Time To Shed Some Light On Corporate-Backed Charters

By John M. Abeigon

Financial openness is just the beginning. Corporate-sponsored charter schools need to authenticate their undocumented successes

John M. Abeigon

John M. Abeigon is president and director of organization for the Newark Teachers Union, Local 481, AFT, AFL-CIO.

The time has come for New Jersey taxpayers to take a close look at corporate-sponsored charter schools in New Jersey. So-called school-choice advocates are pumping millions of dollars into political and advertising campaigns to protect the status quo when it involves the quasi-secret operations of privately managed charter schools in cities like Newark and elsewhere. The strike a wedge between Newark’s parents to draw the attention of taxpayers away from their financial shenanigans.

First of all, it is vital to recognize the difference between a community charter school and a corporate charter school. The Newark Teachers Union has asked for more transparency in the management of corporate-backed charter schools. The Newark Public Schools have two monthly meetings where the school board and superintendent can be held accountable for the actions of their school. When was the last time the citizens of Newark were invited to a KIPP board meeting? What about Uncommon Schools?

Also, as these charters have grown, banks and corporations have developed ways, and found alternative credit routes, to provide capital to charter schools at favorable rates. What are these rates? And what are they funding? Have taxpayers and state legislators had an opportunity to review these credit applications?

Why are Newark’s corporate-run charters so afraid of transparency and democracy? Are Newark taxpayers allowed to run for election on a North Star Academy school board? Where are their financial statements? Where are their attendance reports? How are they spending taxpayer money? And why must the union be asking these questions?



Why Rutgers professors dislike system that tracks their work

By Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media for

NEW BRUNSWICK — Productivity has always been an important aspect of any college professors’ performance.

How many books they write, how often they are cited in articles, how much grant money they win — it’s all part of the discussion about what makes a good college professor, said David Hughes, president of Rutgers’ faculty union.

But when Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus began paying a company to track those statistics and generate productivity scores for each professor, Hughes said he thinks the university took its emphasis on data a step too far.

Rutgers in 2013 inked a four-year, $492,500 contact with Academic Analytics, a private company that tracks the research and publication productivity of thousands of college professors across the country.

The university says the data is a valuable tool. But the use of performance analytics has put Rutgers at odds with professors, who insist the company’s reports are inaccurate and who worry a focus on productivity data will hurt the quality of teaching on campus.

“The database doesn’t tell you anything about teaching and service,” Hughes said. “Anybody who thinks of themselves as a teacher, anybody who is a student or a parent of a student at Rutgers ought to feel insulted by the application, in any way, of this absurdly truncated set of measures.”



Judge puts controversial benefits switch for Newark teachers on hold – for now

By Dan Ivers, NJ Advance Media for

NEWARK — The Newark Public Schools’ controversial plan to unilaterally switch its employee prescription benefits plan hit a snag in court Friday.

Essex County Superior Court Judge Donald Kessler issued an injunction that will require the state-controlled district to justify its plans to transfer service for Newark Teachers Union members to Lawrenceville-based Benecard Services. The union, which claims the no-bid contract for Benecard violates its contract, had requested the order.

With approximately 4,000 employees, the NTU is by far the largest union in the district. The switch will proceed as planned for all other workers, who will be covered by Benecard effective Monday.


The NTU has staged a vocal protest of the proposed change in providers, claiming the district’s decision to award Benecard a contract without inviting other public bids smells of political patronage. Benecard was founded by former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester (he has since sold the company) and was recommended by Conner Strong & Buckelew, an insurance brokerage firm run by South Jersey political power broker George Norcross that also does business with Benecard.

If ultimately successful, transferring NTU members to Benecard would also effectively eliminate the Supplemental Fringe Benefits Fund – an unusual joint trust that has provided dental, vision and prescription benefits to the city’s teachers since the early 1970s.

On Friday, NTU President John Abeigon said those changes have now been staved off, at least until Cerf and other NPS administrators can prove any change would be to the benefit the district.

“It was the Newark Public School’s responsibility to find a cheaper prescription plan, not an equal one,” he said. “Digging themselves out of (a budget deficit) shouldn’t be off the back of taxpayers or our members.”

While the district opted to bypass an open bid process, it contends that Benecard was only selected after an analysis of three carriers conducted by Conner Strong.

In addition to the NTU, the move has also drawn criticism from the city’s School Advisory Board. Several members of the board voiced support for a resolution planned to formalize its opposition, but any vote was delayed when its regular meeting was cancelled following a record-setting blizzard last week.

Board President Ariagna Perello said she was upset by the district’s actions in light of a resolution passed in September that requested all contracts over $40,000 be put out to bid.

“We want complete transparency from the district. I want to make sure that under my leadership, when I see something is being done incorrectly, we’re going to stand up and say something,” she said.

“The NTU is and will not be alone in this fight.”


OPINION: Student lives matter

By Editor

Sen. Ray Lesniak likes to say that his door is always open to address any concerns of his constituents, but his door was decidedly closed when about 75 people marched back and forth in front of it, chanting, waving signs and calling for the firing of Kean University President Dawood Farahi on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Ironically, the senator’s door was perhaps closed because he was not there, and instead was receiving a lifetime achievement award for keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive from the United Youth of New Jersey. Those marching past his door on that bitterly cold morning most certainly do not agree with the senator’s most recent actions, and instead find them antithetical to the spirit of MLK. Looking only at his most recent statements and actions surrounding Kean, LocalSource finds the award misplaced.


Excellence, affordability key to higher education reform | Opinion

By Sen Sandra Cunningham and Sen. Stephen Sweeney


The New Jersey Honors Scholars program, an Investing in You initiative that was discussed at last Wednesday’s College Affordability Commission meeting, would build upon the successful NJ STARS program that currently provides up to two years of free community college tuition to those graduating in the top 15 percent of their high school class.

The new Honors Scholars program would expand eligibility for the county college scholarships to the top 20 percent of graduating seniors in each school.

In addition, the new Honors Scholars initiative would provide a $6,000-a-year grant to students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class to attend four-year public colleges and universities in New Jersey, and would serve as an incentive to keep these students in the state by cutting $24,000 from the college loans they would owe when they graduate.

To keep the very best students in New Jersey, we are also planning to implement a competitive Einstein Scholars program that would provide a full-tuition grant for all costs, except housing, to 100 students to attend any public institution in the state. Students would have to be in the top 5 percent of their graduating class to apply, and the winning scholars would be selected through criteria to be developed by the Secretary of Higher Education.


Here’s your chance to sound off on Common Core changes

By Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media for

TRENTON — New Jersey teachers and parents who want to talk about the state’s proposed changes to the Common Core academic standards will have three chances in the next two months.

The state Board of Education on Thursday announced dates for its public hearings in Morris, Mercer and Camden counties.

Anyone interested in testifying needs to register with the state board by calling 609-984-6024 or signing up online.

Here are the details for the hearings:

Mercer County: 2-4 p.m. Feb. 10, New Jersey Department of Education, Judge Robert L. Carter Building, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton, NJ 08625-0500

Morris County: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 22, Morris County Public Safety Training Academy, Auditorium, 500 W. Hanover Ave., Morris Plains, NJ 07950

Camden County: 10 a.m. – noon March 8, Camden County College, Dennis Flyer Theatre, 200 College Drive, Blackwood, NJ 08012


Memorial Services for David McClure

Dave McClure

Dave McClure

Sunday, February 21 at 3 PM
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
21 Normandy Heights Rd.
Morristown, NJ
Refreshments to follow memorial service

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