Monthly Archives: April 2012

Photos: William Paterson University Day of Action

WPU day of action

Click image to see photos from the April 25 Day of Action for a fair contract and higher education funding.

College of New Jersey professors rally to protest contract dispute

By David Karas/The Times

College of New Jersey professors protest during 'Day of Action' over contract dispute

Hundreds of professors and professional staffers participated in a Day of Action on the TCNJ campus Thursday to rally support for their ongoing contract negotiations with the state. AFT members have been without a contract for a year now.

EWING — With shouts of solidarity and calls for fairness, several hundred professors and professional staffers at The College of New Jersey wore their blue union shirts and assembled for a rally yesterday to rouse support for stalled contract negotiations.

Members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 2364 and representatives from the Council of New Jersey State College Locals participated in the rally on the steps of Green Hall, home to the college’s administration.

Ralph Edelbach, president of the AFT at TCNJ, said the purpose of the rally was to show the campus administration that the union is organized and ready to push back against what he called the unfair demands of the state.

“The kind of contract we get …makes a difference in the quality of education we can deliver,” he said.

The governor’s office declined to respond to requests for comment.

The rally at TCNJ followed similar demonstrations at campuses of other schools that are members of the Council of New Jersey State College Locals.


Braun: N.J. school privatization debate rages on, leaving parents in the dark

ByBob Braun/Star-Ledger Columnist

John O’Boyle/The Star-LedgerGov. Chris Christie is shown talking at the Robert Treat Academy in Newark in this file photo.

HIGHLAND PARK — Marilyn Valentine of Franklin Township was one of the few African-Americans in the audience the other night at Highland Park’s Bartle School. She came to hear a panel discussion about charter schools. Much of the discussion was critical of state policies concerning the privately managed but publicly-funded alternatives.

Valentine, who raised two children into successful adulthood, said she understood the criticisms but pointed out that many parents who looked like her despaired of traditional public schools. “Where are the solutions?” she asked.

If charter and other privatized schools aren’t the solution—and she didn’t say they were—then what are parents to do? “You’re telling the people there is nothing for you.’’

Valentine’s complaint reflects what Gov. Chris Christie and other proponents of privatizing public education—especially in the cities—have been saying. Christie insists a child’s education should not depend on a zip code.

Her questions raised the most fundamental issue in public education: What is the responsibility of the state to the education of its children. What should it do in response to continued failure?

The debate about privatization—about charters and vouchers and increased aid to private schools—really is a consequence of the failure of what was once thought to be the ultimate school reform: The state takeover of failing schools.


Video: AFL-CIO joins TCNJ contract rally

Thousands of union members and student turned out fighting for a fair contract and funding for higher education at state colleges and universities this week.

The state and school presidents are calling for a four-year pay freeze, elimination of sabbaticals, and would make faculty and staff use their vacation days whenever the school decides to close.

Instead of working with the union to reach a fair settlement, the state is asking for terms that would strip away decades of hard-won provisions that would dramatically impact the ability of schools to attract and retain the level of qualified workers that New Jersey has now. The givebacks the state is asking for would undermine New Jersey’s higher education system and deprive students of educational opportunities.

We are extremely proud of the great support generated at these rallies and we will continue to fight together for a fair contract and to preserve the highest level of education for our state and its students.

In Unity,

Charles Wowkanech, President
Laurel Brennan, Secretary-Treasurer

Two Parties Find a Way to Agree, and Disagree, on Student Loan Rates

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Obama aboard Air Force One Wednesday on his way to the University of Iowa. Mr. Obama has been barnstorming swing states in support of an extension for lower student loan rates.

By Peter Baker and Jennifer Steinhauer

IOWA CITY — As President Obama wrapped up a barnstorming tour of college campuses in swing states on Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans agreed that they wanted to avoid a steep increase in the student loan interest rate this summer. But the chief issue remained unsettled: how to pay the cost of doing so.

In a second day of campaign-style rallies, Mr. Obama pressed his attack on Republicans, depicting them as unsympathetic to college students in need. Republicans countered by accusing the president and his Democratic allies of playing politics with the issue and trying to raise taxes on small businesses to pay for the subsidized rate.

Caught in the middle were seven million college students who will see the interest rate on their federally subsidized loans double to 6.8 percent on July 1 unless Congress and the White House come together on a plan to prevent that, at a cost of $6 billion. For a typical student, the White House said the higher rate could mean as much as $1,000 in additional debt per year at a time of high unemployment among recent graduates.


Educators, professionals rally at NJCU, seeking new labor contract and tuition rollbacks as part of statewide action

Celeste Little/The Jersey Journal By Celeste Little/The Jersey Journal
NJCU rally

Graduate student Fatima Benchouk joins the rally by the American Federation of Teachers Local 1839, students, teachers and staff at New Jersey City University in Jersey City on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal

Several dozen educators and other professionals rallied yesterday at New Jersey City University, calling for a new labor contract and rollbacks in tuition costs.

Rallies are being held at college campuses around the state this week, union officials said.

The protests serve as a rallying cry for increased state funding for higher education and fair labor negotiations on campuses, AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said.

Steve Young, an official with the American Federation of Teachers, said yesterday at NJCU that professors have been working with an “amended version” of a contract that expired in June.

The current arrangement excludes sabbaticals, career development, mandatory raises, and advancement opportunity for new teachers, he said.

“The lack of funding affects students’ tuition ultimately, and if we don’t get the contract or at least what we had in the past, teachers won’t want to teach in New Jersey,” said Young.

New Jersey ranks 47th in the nation for higher education funding, according to Young.

Over the past three years tuition at NJCU has risen $1,033, union workers said.

Lois Weiner, a professor at the college, said she teaches mostly working-class individuals who can’t afford the tuition hikes.

“My students are now working 40 hours a week to pay tuition and have to be full-time students to get financial aid,” Weiner said. “New Jersey government is giving students the shaft.”


Does Mitt Romney Have an Education Platform?

Beyond breaking the unions, what kind of education policy can we expect from a Romney presidency?

Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran /

If you’re looking to understand what Mitt Romney might do to education as president of the United States, a good place to start is with his own words. Back in March, Mitt Romney told Fox News’ Bret Baier that his primary educational goal if elected to the presidency would be to weaken teachers’ unions. “The role I see that ought to remain in the president’s agenda with regards to education,” Romney announced, “is to push back against the federal teachers’ unions.” His promise? To diminish the role of the federal government in education policy, except when it comes to union-busting.

This denunciation of teachers’ unions is nothing new for the Right; it’s a plank that has long figured in Republican campaign rhetoric and policy, starting with Ronald Regan. Though Reagan did engage in moderate rhetoric on unions from time to time on the campaign trail, the same moderation was rarely reflected in policy once he was elected. In a nod to his Hollywood roots, Reagan’s 1980 campaign included a pledge of support for the Screen Actors Guild, the actors’ union. And Cold Warrior that he was, he predictably lauded Polish workers who unionized in defiance of the Soviet Union.

Yet overall, Reagan’s relationship with labor in the United States was overwhelmingly hostile. His dispute with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association was perhaps the defining union policy of his presidency. He broke that union apart by firing anyone who failed to comply with his imperative to stop striking. And he certainly opposed America’s two largest teachers’ unions, the National Association of Educators (NEA) and the AFL-CIO-affiliated American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Reagan’s anti-unionism set the stage for his party’s contemporary commitment to union-busting, and that included open opposition to the two teachers’ unions.

Ever since, Republicans have worked to demonize – and weaken – both NEA and AFT. This culminated in 2004, when President George W. Bush’s education secretary Rod Paige absurdly called the NEA a “terrorist organization.” So, it isn’t surprising that Romney has chosen to demonize the two unions in his fight to secure his party’s presidential nomination. But as an educational platform, union-bashing’s pretty thin. The sound bites may play well with the Republican base, but what else do we know about Romney on education? He hasn’t made the issue a central component of his campaign — so where can we look to find out what President Romney’s vision for American education might be?


Financial details sought on Rowan, Rutgers-Camden merger

By Joelle Farrell, Inquirer Trenton bureau

TRENTON — Members of the Assembly budget committee skewered New Jersey’s higher education secretary at a hearing Wednesday, arguing that they can’t judge a proposal to overhaul the state university system without knowing the cost.


FILE: Rochelle Hendricks, secretary of Higher Education, speaks at a news conference with Gov. Christie last month. JULIO CORTEZ / AP

Secretary Rochelle Hendricks said “world-class” financial experts were reviewing the proposal, which would merge Rutgers-Camden into Rowan University in Glassboro and combine parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with Rutgers’ main campus in New Brunswick. Hendricks expects to have a cost analysis in the next few weeks.

For some, that wasn’t good enough, especially when Republican Gov. Christie wanted the plan approved by July 1.

“All of these things should have been done,” said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D., Essex). “How do you come up with a conclusion without first seeing if it’s at least feasible?”

Sen. President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) is working on a bill to address the university-system overhaul, a spokesman told the Bergen County Record last week, but he offered no details about the legislation’s language. Sweeney did not return requests for comment Wednesday.


Democrats want to know price tag of Rutgers-Rowan merger before proposal moves forward

The Associated Press ByThe Associated Press
Two Democrats who publicly questioned the state’s top higher education official on Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to reorganize state colleges and universities said yesterday they still have concerns the proposed merger is speeding ahead before its costs have been calculated or analyzed.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto said it makes no sense to move forward before the costs are tallied, despite the Republican governor’s July 1 deadline. Committee member Al Coutinho said the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s $240 million debt could be a deal-killer, as could concerns over the financial viability of University Hospital in Newark if it’s no longer supported by UMDNJ.

“If this was so important, why wasn’t a financial component part of the analysis so we could move forward,” Prieto (D-Hudson) asked while questioning Higher Education Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks during a budget hearing. “Normally this administration is so business-oriented. How do we do legislation without knowing what the price tag is?”


R2RMerge claims George Norcross said the merger of Rowan and Rutgers-Camden would cost billions


This flier from the Rutgers-Camden student group R2RMerge was found in a Jersey City grocery store on April 15.An official estimate of the cost to merge two universities in southern New Jersey has not been released, but a student group claims a Democratic power broker put a multibillion-dollar price tag on the proposal.

R2RMerge, a student movement at Rutgers-Camden, has taken to the web and to the streets to rally opposition to a plan to merge their school with Rowan University in Glassboro. The group is soliciting signatures for an online petition, as well as distributing literature to stop the controversial merger.

A flier from the group found April 15 in a Jersey City grocery store states: “TAKEOVER OF RUTGER$ CAMDEN WILL COST NEW JER$EY BILLION$”

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