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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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Prekindergarten – 12

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 »

How the Government Exaggerates the Cost of College

By David Leonhardt

The government’s official statistic for college-tuition inflation has become somewhat infamous. It appears frequently in the news media, and policy makers lament what it shows.

No wonder: College tuition and fees have risen an astounding 107 percent since 1992, even after adjusting for economywide inflation, according to the measure. No other major household budget item has increased in price nearly as much.

But it turns out the government’s measure is deeply misleading.

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Lack of funding stalls Gov. Christie’s plan for more class time

By Peggy McGlone, The Star-Ledger

[...]

But six months after Christie’s bold proposal, the state has no formal plan to extend learning time. A $5 million innovation fund that would have helped pay for new programs was a casualty of a late-spring budget crunch. A separate $1 million fund for after-school and summer programs for at-risk students remains.

It is a subject that has been discussed for years, though finding the additional money, and convincing parents and teachers to give up summer vacation, are the major challenges.

Following Christie’s speech, leaders of the state’s teachers unions were skeptical. The American Federation of Teachers New Jersey president Donna Chiera called it a political gimmick, while NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer questioned the governor’s motives because Christie had just vetoed a bill creating a task force to study mandated full-day kindergarten, which would dramatically expand learning time for tens of thousands of students in districts with half-day programs.

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Senators in Both Parties Agree: States Must Do More for Higher Education

By Eric Kelderman

Congressional hearings often feature bitter partisanship and acrimonious finger pointing. But there was mostly agreement on Thursday at a higher-education hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Both Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat of Iowa, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican of Tennessee, agreed that states should take a leading role in paying for and overseeing public colleges.

Senator Harkin, the committee’s chairman, reiterated his view that states largely disinvested from higher education during the most recent recession, driving up the tuition costs and requiring students to go deeper in debt for a college education.

“The steady erosion of state investment in public higher education over the last few decades reflects a stunning abdication of responsibility on the part of states to preserve college affordability,” Senator Harkin said in his prepared remarks.

The solution, Mr. Harkin said, is to create incentives for states to increase their appropriations for higher education.

Senator Harkin and other Democrats on the committee also urged states to continue their scrutiny of for-profit colleges and, more recently, companies that claim to offer relief from student-loan debt.

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Legislator, locals object to Gov. Christie’s executive order on Common Core

By Andrea Hughes, Managing Editor, The Item of Millburn and Short Hills

Slight changes are in store for New Jersey’s implementation of PARCC (Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers) tests to measure Common Core Curriculum Standards the state has adopted, but the tests will be administered as planned in the 2014-15 school year.

Last week Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order establishing a commission that will present recommendations on the “volume, frequency and impact” of PARCC tests. The New Jersey Department of Education also released regulations reducing the percentage of teacher evaluations that will depend on growth in test scores.

The Study Commission will be made up of nine members appointed by the governor.

According to Christie’s executive order, “The Study Commission shall consist of individuals who have practical experience, knowledge or expertise in the areas of education policy or administration. All members of the Study Commission shall serve without compensation.”

In addition, the state Department of Education is modifying the weights of student growth components in teacher evaluations as measured by the PARCC assessments for the upcoming academic year.

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According to the new regulations, evaluations of fourth to eighth grade language arts or mathematics teachers will be comprised as follows: 10 percent will be based on student academic growth as measured by statewide assessments, 20 percent will be based on student academic growth as measured by individualized student growth objectives and 70 percent will be based on observations. Student growth objectives are specific student learning targets that are developed between teachers and principals, rather than based on a statewide assessment.

The previous system called for student academic growth to represent 30 percent of teacher evaluations, while 55 percent would be determined by classroom observations and 15 percent student growth objectives.

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who represents Millburn in the 27th Legislative District and sponsored a bill to delay the use of test scores in teacher evaluations while a task force studied the education reforms, released a statement last week that was critical of the executive order.

“I am relieved that the impact of test scores will be reduced as we take time to examine critical discrepancies about the best way to strengthen our schools,” she wrote. “That said, I do have some concerns about the ability of nine individuals who are unilaterally appointed by the administration to provide impartial evaluation of the Common Core State Standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments – evaluation that will be critical as we work together to prepare New Jersey’s students to compete in the global marketplace.”

The bill sponsored by Jasey, A-3081, calls for a 15-member task force that would include public members appointed by the Senate president and Assembly speaker in addition to gubernatorial appointees representing organizations dedicated to advancing K-12 education. The bill received a bipartisan vote in the Assembly but has not been voted on in the Senate.

The grassroots group Save Our Schools has invited members of the public to send letters to the governor and New Jersey Education Commissioner Hespe requesting that parents be represented on the Study Commission.

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Newark Civil-Rights Probe Mirrors Investigations in Other U.S. Cities

By John Mooney

Administration, state-appointed superintendent, will cooperate but keep low profile for time being

The federal civil-rights investigation of the “One Newark” plan for reorganizing that city’s schools is part of a campaign that is taking place in a dozen cities nationwide, where school closures in urban districts are being contested.

The investigation was announced in front of Newark City hall yesterday; advocates from across the country, including New Orleans and Chicago, were in attendance.

“It’s almost like I was listening to what was going on in New Orleans,” said Debra Jones, an advocate from New Orleans who made the trip north, her first to New Jersey. “The strangest thing is any of this never happens in Caucasian communities,” she said.

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Fine Print: DOE Details Teacher Evaluation After Christie Compromise

By John Mooney

Summer training and deadlines for schools following Christie rollback on use of student test scores in evaluations.

What it is: The State Department of Education sent to districts last week the details of the administration’s updated mandates for teacher evaluation in 2014-2015, following Gov. Chris Christie’s decision a week ago to change some of the criteria in the face of growing political opposition.

What’s in it: The major changes outlined were Christie’s decision to reduce for the next two years the amount that student progress on state tests — known as “median student growth percentiles” (SGPs) — count toward teacher evaluations.

It also outlined a new review process for the use of other “student growth objectives” (SGOs) in the 2013-2014 school year. In addition, the memo laid out a series of workshops for educators over the summer that will offer further training on the evaluation process and the use of SGOs.

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Newark parents cheer federal investigation into controversial school plan

By Peggy McGlone, The Star-Ledger

NEWARK — The U.S. Department of Education is investigating whether Newark’s school reorganization plan discriminates against African-American students after people opposed to the plan filed a federal complaint about it.

The investigation by the department’s Office of Civil Rights comes after parents and a local education advocacy organization filed a civil rights complaint in May charging that the One Newark plan — set to begin in September — unfairly harms African-American children and their families. The controversial plan consolidates or relocates one-quarter of the schools in the state-run district. It also allows charter schools to operate in three city-owned facilities.

A U.S. Department of Education spokesman confirmed the investigation was opened this month by the Office of Civil Rights.

“OCR is currently investigating whether Newark Public Schools’ enactment of the ‘One Newark’ plan discriminated against black students on the basis of race,” the spokesman said. “As it is an open investigation, we cannot share any further information.”

Newark parents opposed to the proposed school reorganization hailed the decision Wednesday.

Leaders of the Newark branch of Parents Unified for Local School Education, or PULSE, joined Newark parents and members of a national civil rights advocacy organization at City Hall Wednesday to pledge to continue pushing for a halt to Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson’s plan.

“Closing the doors of public schools is not the way to improve public schools,” PULSE founder Sharon Smith said.

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Labor solidarity in Montclair

Labor solidarity in Montclair

Labor solidarity in Montclair

AFT Local 1904 members (Rich Wolfson, Ken Brook, Bill Sullivan) supporting trade union brothers and sisters at the demonstration against developers LCOR/Pinnacle, at the Valley & Bloom construction site in Montclair on Tuesday July 8. The demonstration was organized by Thomas F. McIntyre (far left) from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

Keep up the Pressure: Tell LCOR to Abide its Contract and Create Union Jobs

The Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers of New Jersey (BAC/ADC) organized a demonstration this week to call on LCOR – the developer behind the “Valley and Bloom Project” in Montclair – to abide by its contractual agreement and use union pension funds it received from California teachers unions to create union jobs.

We thank AFTNJ and all of our union brothers and sisters who showed their support by attending this demonstration as well as making calls to the CEO of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which has a controlling interest in LCOR and can therefore hold the company accountable to keep its promise.

California teachers, invested $800 million worth of their pension fund in LCOR with the understanding that their investment would go towards creating union jobs. Instead, LCOR is using that money for non-union labor. These teachers deserve an answer as well as immediate action from CalSTRS to resolve this matter.

You can help to keep the pressure on LCOR by taking the following action:

Make a call to CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes (916) 414-2200. Inform Mr. Ehnes that, LCOR has not honored its obligation to California’s teachers, and urge him to do everything in his power to compel LCOR to abide by its contract and use union pension dollars to create union jobs.

We must stand in solidarity, not only to make LCOR keep its word to the California teachers, but also to ensure that the jobs we create here in New Jersey support a middle class standard of living and carry the stamp of skilled union labor. Please take a moment to make a phone call to show your support and solidarity.

CD 5 race: AFT endorses Dem Cho against GOP’s Garrett

By Mark Bonamo 

Roy Cho

Roy Cho

RIDGEWOOD – The American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ) has announced its endorsement of Roy Cho for Congress in the Fifth Congressional District, citing his commitment to strengthening public education and pulling the nation out of its higher education affordability crisis.

“We appreciate Roy’s commitment to education and support for teachers,” said AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera. “His mentorship of students from low-income backgrounds who are the first in their family to attend college is admirable as is his speaking out about the crushing debt these students face. We are proud to endorse his candidacy.”

Cho serves on the board of directors of the nonprofit organization New Jersey Needs You, which focuses on mentoring college students from low-income backgrounds who are the first in their family to attend a four-year college, helping them to graduate and secure internships and jobs.

AFTNJ is the state’s largest representative of higher education workers, and represents educators in public, independent, charter and religious schools. AFTNJ claims more than 30,000 members.

“I am honored to have the support of our education professionals and pledge to work with them on long-term solutions for our broken student loan system,” said Cho, a Democrat seeking to unseat six-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5). “Unlike [Garrett], I won’t vote against cutting student loan interest rates, or gutting the grant programs our students rely on to afford the education they need to build successful careers. Our students and families deserve better.”

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Hespe Helps Take Hearsay Out of Newark ‘Working Group’

By John Mooney

In one of his first public statements, acting commissioner details plans and purpose for working group, comments on Anderson’s annual review

The state-appointed “working group” that will serve as a community sounding board for embattled Newark superintendent Cami Anderson will have as many as 18 people and start its work in the next couple of weeks, said acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe yesterday.

In some of his first public comments since the renewal of Anderson’s contract, Hespe said in an interview that the group would be made up of people who both live and work in Newark and would be a critical measure for Anderson going forward.

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