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

Change may be difficult, but One Newark plan is worthwhile: Opinion

By Cami Anderson

I recently had an opportunity to engage with state legislators on a range of topics affecting students in Newark. I sincerely appreciated a forum where decorum was upheld, questions could be answered, and tough, frank dialogue could occur. Our children’s lives depend on our ability to deliver radically better results than we have to date. That requires difficult conversations and a willingness to confront dysfunctional past practices.

Change is hard. Breaking down and rebuilding a failed bureaucracy requires tough decisions – ones about which reasonable people can disagree. I left the hearing asking myself how we can move forward together to find ways to ensure equity while building excellent public schools, and how we can deepen our connection with families in Newark and those that represent them.

Every high-performing school has a transformational school leader who is empowered to hire excellent teachers. They have 21st-century facilities, engaged families, and best-in- class tools and curricula.

Many of these high-performing schools are charters. And, in many regards, they are playing with a much more favorable hand than traditional public schools. They don’t have to choose between balancing their budget and “force placing” teachers because of seniority rules that are not driven by quality. They can retain teachers who are excellent and exit those who are not growing. They can use tax credits and bonds to efficiently renovate buildings and buy air conditioners. They can drive money into the classroom without the attacks that come when a district attempts the same objectives.

We can deny that charters have these advantages, or we can try to slow their growth, but that denies families’ access to high-quality schools now. The fact remains that many charters in Newark are outperforming traditional public schools. Instead of fighting against a charter system that is working for our kids, we must create a public policy agenda that gives traditional public schools the same pro-student advantages.

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N.J. needs more public pre-K, group says

By Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

A new advocacy group aimed at expanding publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs in New Jersey launched Tuesday with the support of influential leaders in both business and politics.

Pre-K Our Way, a non-partisan non-profit, says New Jersey has one of the best pre-K programs in the country but not enough communities are part of it.

The organization hopes to rally communities and school districts to solicit support from elected officials, generating political will among state lawmakers for more publicly funded programs for 3- and 4-years olds, its leaders said.

“If you spend any time around 3- and 4-year olds, they need a lot of stimulation throughout the course of the day,” said Brian Maher, former Chairman of Maher Terminals LLC and the main financial supporter of Pre-K Our Way. “We realize just how important pre-K is and that it really needs to be expanded.”

Former governors Tom Kean and Jim Florio are both among the organization’s leaders.

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Delegate Assembly Rescheduled

Wednesday, Feb. 18.
6:30-8:30 PM
Cook Campus Center–Multipurpose Room AB
Park in lots 99C and 99D

The Delegate Assembly cancelled due to weather Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 has been rescheduled.

Jasey appointed chair of Assembly Higher Education Committee

By Chase Brush

Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) announced on Friday that he’s appointed Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-27) as the new chairperson of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

Mila Jasey

Mila Jasey

Jasey replaces former Higher Education Chair Celeste Riley (D-3), who left the Assembly this year to serve as the Cumberland County clerk.

Jasey, of South Orange, was first sworn into the New Jersey General Assembly in 2007, and before joining served as a member of the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education for three terms, including two years as President. She is Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools and serves as a member of the Assembly Education Committee.

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State Spending on Higher Education Inches Up, but Fiscal Pitfalls Remain

By Eric Kelderman

An annual report on state spending on higher education is mostly good news, at least for the fiscal year just past.

But widen the lens, and the focus muddies: Half of the states are still appropriating less for higher education than they did five years ago.

And the prospects for future spending are clouded by falling oil prices and state lawmakers’ resistance to raising taxes.

Over all, states increased appropriations for higher education by more than 5 percent from the 2014 to the 2015 fiscal years.

That’s the second consecutive annual increase after four years of declines or nominal growth, according to the “Grapevine” report, a joint project of the Center for the Study of Education Policy, at Illinois State University, and the Association of State Higher Education Executive Officers.

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How did N.J. get into this pension mess?

By Samantha Marcus, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON — Some 800,000 people, working and retired, are beneficiaries of New Jersey’s pension system, a collection of funds going deeper into the red.

It’s a system that Gov. Chris Christie, in his State of the State address last week, called “an insatiable beast.”

In boom years, New Jersey leaders shortchanged the pension system, and those “sins of the past,” Christie said, “have made the system unaffordable.”

Fully funding the pension system this fiscal year would cost $3.9 billion, but Christie cut the pension payment to just $700 million to balance the budget — a move that landed him in court, battling an attempt by unions to force him to pay more.

Union leaders accuse the governor of going back on his word to have the state make full payments in exchange for higher contributions from workers. It’s a hot issue in Trenton made even bigger with Christie considering a White House run.

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6 N.J. governors, including Chris Christie, are to blame for state’s pension crisis: Opinion

By Sean Rutherford

New Jersey’s state pension fund is going broke. Apparently, in 10 years the fund will be empty and those belonging to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) will be out of luck. And when you ask any politician why this is happening, we get variations of this response: “The state’s public employees are bankrupting us with their salaries and benefits plans.”

This is where I draw the line. As a teacher, I have contributed every dime I was supposed to into my pension. Yet, for some reason our state government hasn’t. Where did this all start? Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. She took office in 1994 and decided that in order to achieve a balanced state budget, as required by law, she would reduce the amount of money contributed to the pension fund. In 1997, she decided the state should borrow $2.75 billion from the fund and use it elsewhere. As time went on, she contributed a mere fraction of what was necessary to replace those funds and meet the needs of the pension system. For the next half decade, the state as a whole contributed an average of $23 million per year. The calculations and formulas showed the state should have contributed an average of $600 million per year to keep up with the demand. This trend continued with each new governor that took office: Donald DiFrancesco, James McGreevey, Richard Codey, Jon Corzine, and our current governor, Chris Christie.

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Baraka asks for Newark superintendent’s resignation — again

By Naomi Nix, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

NEWARK — After Newark superintendent Cami Anderson’s contentious meeting with state lawmakers last week, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is once again calling for her resignation.

Baraka released a Jan. 12 letter he sent to Anderson, asking the state-appointed superintendent to resign because of her “blatant disregard” for the Newark community she serves.

“In light of your manipulation of state control of Newark Public Schools to usurp the rights of Newark residents to have input into the governance of the public schools in our city,” Baraka wrote.

“As Mayor of City of Newark, I demand your immediate resignation as state appointed superintendent of Newark Public Schools.”

In his letter, the mayor alleged a host of criticisms of Anderson’s leadership of the school district including the failure to provide adequate services to students with disabilities, not working with the Newark Public Schools Advisory board, and creating a “hostile” environment for district employees.

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Montclair State’s bird-brained idea: Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

It costs $11,000 in tuition to attend Montclair State University each year, which is a sizable chunk of change for most people who thought state colleges were the affordable alternative.

So it was baffling that the taxpayer-supported institution thought it would be prudent to spend $210,000 on a 12-foot statue of its Red Hawk mascot, and given the negative reaction you read about it online and a high volume of alumni feedback, it might be time for Montclair to reconsider the project.

We all like sculpture. Art enriches our lives and our landscapes, but this is something that should have been funded through private or alumni funds, not the Student Government Association. The SGA ponied up half the cost after being sold on the notion that statue would “enhance school spirit” – and it’s merely coincidental that it looks like some screaming attack chicken.

The Record quoted one student named Jo Landau, who in two sentences said more than we can say: “You know what could really help school spirit?” she asked. “If tuition weren’t so high (and) if there were parking spots for everyone.”

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Comptroller investigating $219K table

By Cheryl Hehl, Staff Writer

The New Jersey State Comptroller’s Office is reportedly looking into Kean’s purchase of a conference table for $219,000.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The state agency charged with overseeing waste and financial misconduct of taxpayer dollars is looking into whether Kean University followed the proper procedures when purchasing a $219,000 conference table from a company in China.

Kean President Dawood Farahi was the initiator of the purchase of the high-tech, high cost conference table, obtaining approval for the purchase from the Kean Board of Trustees.

However, this is not the first time the university president has blazed a trail of controversy. In fact, it is just one of many incidents, including the construction of buildings that remain half-filled with students, that have raised eyebrows.

According to sources in the New Jersey State Comptroller’s Office, the probe was launched after media reports that the state university, supported by taxpayer dollars, waived competitive bidding in order to buy the table from a company in China.

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