Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Sunday, 16 December 2012

What a Suprise!!

Budget task force sees major fiscal challenges ahead for N.J.
Thursday, December 13, 2012 Last updated: Thursday December 13, 2012, 1:56 PM
The Record

From The Political State blog on\

No matter who wins the 2013 gubernatorial election, New Jersey will continue to face some steep fiscal challenges unless major budget reforms are enacted.
A new report on New Jersey’s finances released Thursday by the State Budget Task Force said heavy debt, a grossly underfunded pension system, looming federal spending cuts and an “eroding and volatile tax structure” are all among the “difficult choices” the state faces in the years ahead when it comes to budget policies.
The report, one of six the task force is compiling at the state level, spelled out each major issue in New Jersey in stark terms.
The state will need to come up with $133 billion over the next 10 years to meet infrastructure needs. New Jersey is also carrying $33.7 billion in debt, which is more than the current state budget and among the highest of all state’s per-capita.
The property tax burden in New Jersey has risen to $25 billion statewide.
The state’s annual obligation to the public employee pension system – a payment that has been skipped or only partially funded for the last several years – will sit at $5.5 billion in just five years, which is five times the amount Governor Christie put in the current state budget.
And since the state is relying on $12 billion in funds from the federal government, even a 10 percent cut that could result from the looming federal fiscal and spending policy changes generally referred to as the fiscal cliff could cost the state $1.2 billion.
“Balancing budgets, to say the least, is going to be a challenge,” said Richard Keevey, distinguished practitioner in residence at Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration and an author of the report.
Christie, a Republican, has already said he’s running for re-election in 2013. And Democratic leaders are waiting to hear from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has expressed interest in challenging Christie but has yet to make a final decision. State Sen. Barbara, D-Middlesex, filed paperwork earlier this week to run for governor.
Other possible Democratic candidates include U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, state Sen. Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, and state Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and state Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden.
No matter who wins in 2013, they will have to confront the significant budget issues spelled out in the report.  One major question is whether tax hikes would be needed, something Christie has resisted doing since taking office in early 2010.
The report said a complete review of the tax and spending structures at the state and local levels is long overdue.
The task force’s advisory board is co-chaired by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. They started the project in 2011, and issued an overview report in July 2012.
The in-depth report on New Jersey’s budget issues is one of six state-level studies. The other state reports cover budget issues in California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia.
Both Volcker and Ravitch appeared with Keevey to go over the New Jersey report Thursday morning at a hotel in Trenton.
They were reluctant to cast blame for some of the major budget issues — such as the skipped pension payments or a reliance one-shot revenue gimmicks — on any one party or governor.
“It’s very, very tempting to respond to the inevitable questions about politics,” Ravitch said. “There were dumb things done on a bipartisan basis.”
And though the report made a series of recommendations — including more multi-year budget planning, regular funding of the pension system, and the tax and spending review – the men did not advocate for any specific solution, such as tax hikes or spending cuts. That is better left to the elected officials, they said.
They also said the response to superstorm Sandy only highlights the need for a sharp focus on the budget issues.
“It all comes back to the same question of priorities,” Volcker said.
From Media Matters
"The first thing Christine Todd Whitman did upon taking office as governor of New Jersey in January was to cut the state's income tax. Then in July, as she signed into law her first state budget, the Republican cut taxes again while simultaneously closing the huge deficit left by her predecessor.
This is what her supporters call the Whitman miracle, the fiscal accomplishment that has sent her stock soaring among
New Jersey's voters and transformed her on the national scene from a political unknown into one of the Republican Party's newest stars.
But the key to the Whitman miracle lies neither in her political philosophy nor in her spending cuts, but rather in the fine print of her budget. Contained there is a series of arcane fiscal changes that some experts say amount to this: Christine Todd Whitman has balanced New Jersey's books and paid for her tax cut by quietly diverting more than $1 billion from the state's pension fund.Whitman calls what she did a "reform" of the pension system that puts it on a more "sound actuarial footing." 
Others are less charitable. The one thing that even the actuarial consultants hired by the Whitman administration agree on, however, is that the chief effect of the changes will be to shift billions of dollars in pension obligations onto New Jersey taxpayers 15 to 20 years from now."
My Comments-

And McGreevy and Corzine followed suit. All raided the pension fund or back doored it to allow increased spending and tax cuts so as to enhance their chances of reelection.
Essentially, then, the pension fund contributed to the political campaigns of all these past governors and is continuing to do so with Christie. He is not contributing nearly what is required.
I really thought the contributions were required by law but if you are the governor it seems the law doesn't apply.
And now there's a shortfall?
What a surprise!
It's all some sad BS perpetrated on retired workers, future retired workers and the New Jersey citizens.
And -
How about the federal government?
They spend trillions on "defense" (I don't know who we are defending against)
They spend billions on "The War of Drugs" and haven't won one battle yet!
They spend billions on Foreign Aid (much of which is used to arm foreign countries)
They spend billions keeping troops in countries such as Germany, Japan, South Korea, etc. Why do we have to have military outposts in these countries continually since WW II?
I think we all know why. 
So tens of thousands of patronage jobs are made available for politicians to dole out and so military contractors and arms manufacturers (who employ cadres of lobbyists) can reap huge profits from taxpayer dollars.
Maybe it's time for the feds to stop all this wanton spending and start spending on our own people by helping to balance state budgets and improving our infrastructure!
They say "A fish rots from the head down" but in this case I think the whole fish (state politics and federal politics) are rotted !

I ask again, "What do you think??"

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Why We Should Expect Disrespect !

This memo was distributed to the staff at a local suburban high school was posted on the town's Internet message board.
Folks- oversight on my part - but an important piece from Mr. F as we move to the mid-point of the year.
Quoting Mr. F
"As many of you are aware we have had an inexcusable number of fights and events in our building over the last few weeks. As Dave and I work together to manage discipline I have been experiencing a number of extremely disrespectful students. This behavior is not acceptable on any level. If you confront a student who is disrespectful please send them down and they will be dealt with accordingly. To help alleviate discipline problems please aim to plan lessons and activities that begin and continue through the bell. Also, your presence in the hallway between periods is recognized by the students and so I ask that you assist us as much as possible. Thank you!"

I would like to add that you should not have to deal with consistent surliness in your classrooms--- Send them down-- we will send them out.

High School
Some replies to this post, blamed the Governor amongst other things for the increase in disrespectful and aggressive behavior at the school.
Some other subsequent posts defended him.
I replied as follows:

"It disturbs me that you are finding a way to blame the Governor for this" (A quote from one of the posts)
Here's how the Governor and all those who constantly bash teachers are to blame.
Kids are not stupid!
When they see public officials and the public in general show little or no respect for teachers they figure, why should they?
How can you expect children to respect someone who is continually referred to as "greedy, lazy, poor performing, a leech, overpaid, under worked, in it strictly for the time off, etc."?
Additionally, teachers are frequently chided for not making it "interesting enough".
If only they did, all children would learn and flowers would bloom in every classroom.
In other words, we want teachers to be entertainers for forty two minutes every class period.
If the child doesn't pay attention, do the work and learn, then it must be the teacher's fault because he hasn't been entertaining enough.
If the child isn't entertained sufficiently, the teacher is doing a poor job and the student has the right to act up and be disruptive.
If the child is sent out of the class for poor behavior then the teacher is labeled as "not being able to control the class".
Trust me, Socrates couldn't teach a disruptive class!
If the student refuses to participate in learning, it is the teacher's fault because he hasn't "engaged" the student.
This mentality has been foisted on public education by politicians and educational "experts" many of whom haven't been in a classroom in decades (if ever) but continue to pontificate and dictate.
The saddest part of all is the public continues to believe it.

At a later point in the message board conversation I wrote:

Teachers and schools have little authority and what little they have is becoming less day after day.
If a child is given a poor grade, it is because the teacher is a poor teacher.
If a child is disciplined, he is being bullied.
If a coach requires a child to do an extra push up because of poor performance, he is the victim of corporal punishment. (Believe it or not asking a child to write "I will behave" fifty times is considered corporal punishment!)
If the child does poorly on a state test, it is because he hasn't been taught well.
If a child is disruptive, it is because the teacher hasn't made it "interesting" enough.
And to top it off, every one has an Uncle Joe who is a lawyer eager to pursue all these injustices!
Additionally, to address the fight issue.
If a teacher intercedes in a fight and a child claims injury, the teacher is punished.
If a teacher intercedes in a fight and a child claims any sexual infringement, the teacher is fired or worse.
If a teacher does not intercede in a fight and a child is injured, the teacher is neglectful.
If the teacher is injured - well tough luck for him (or her).
Talk about no win!

What are your thoughts on student behavior, how it affects classroom learning and manner in which discipline is handled at your school?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

What Do You Think??

I have received comments about my proposal to ask for your ideas regarding educational questions in my future posts.
I am including them below and also posing a question as I suggested I would.
Here is a prelude to the question.

In Jersee (as we like to call it), we have had over the past decades,  the following educational schemes, instituted and imposed by the State:

The Renaissance Act
The Urban Hope Act
No Child Left Behind  (NCLB)
The Race to the Top
The Quality Education Act  (QEA)
Thorough and Efficient   (T&E)
High School Proficiency   (HSPT),    (HSPT9), (HSTP11)
Grade Eight Proficiency  Assessment   (GEPA)
Quality Single Accountability  Continuum   (QSAC)
Comprehensive Education Improvement and Financing Act   (CEIFA)

The School Funding Reform Act

The New Jersey Assessment of    Skills and Knowledge  (NJ ASK)
NJ ASK 3, NJ ASK 4, NJ ASK 3-8
Minimum Basic Skills testing program  (MBS)
Early Warning Test (EWT)
Alternate Proficiency Assessment (APA)
Elementary School Proficiency Assessment (ESPA)
The Open Classroom
Core Curriculum Content Standards
The Charter School craze!

I hope I haven't missed any. There's an allow lot to remember!  If I have, please remind me.


Which, if any of the aforementioned plans, have had any success in improving New Jersey education or education in general?

Which, if any, have proved negative for education and teaching?

And, if you could devise a plan to improve education, what would be its prime components?

Please your reply to: 


Here are some of the letters which I have received regarding my previous post:

I stumbled upon your blog through High School Herd, through Pinterest, while looking for math ideas for my high school classroom in Ohio. I am at a career and technical center serving grades 11 and 12, teaching Intermediate Algebra/Geometry and Algebra 2. I am also the numeracy coach (for one period of the day).
Your comments and feelings are echoed here in Ohio. I assume the culture of the profession and unions is similar across the country. I think the site is a great idea and would be proud to contribute to the cause. At worst, I could occasionally share some perspective from my state.
It was surprising that your blog was only a few days old. I was expecting at least a few years worth of comments. I have been teaching since 1999 and my first full year started with an eight day strike. I have been at my current district since 2007 and have certainly noticed a shift in the mindset of communities as well as union members.
Back to teaching! Looking forward to hearing back from you.
Jeff E.

Sounds great! I'm in.
Peg Nicholson
Missouri Information Coordinator

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Thank you Jeff and Peg for your replies.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Past, The Present, and The Future of Teaching

A teenager was brought into the Principal's office to be disciplined. The Principal spoke.
"Your teacher has told me you are ignorant and  apathetic. What do you have to say for yourself?"
The teenager thought for a moment and then  replied.
"I don't know what that means and I don't care!"
Do today's teachers exhibit the same mentality?
Are they ignorant of how much effort was required of their predecessors so as to enable them to enjoy the benefits of today's teaching profession? (Benefits which are rapidly being eroded.)
Are they apathetic to the fight to maintain those benefits? Do they merely take them for granted?
I wonder!
Over the past two years I have posted close to a hundred items. They primarily dealt with my observations and experiences pertaining to education.
During my forty years of teaching, at both the secondary and college level, I witnessed tremendous improvement in the status of the profession.
When I started in 1965, bargaining and negotiations were non existent. It was pretty much we went "hat in hand" to the Board of Education and relied on their largess. 
In the years following, during the seventies, teachers worked hard to change those circumstances. Many engaged in political action, many walked picket lines and endured strikes and some even went to jail.
In the end, after much strife, the profession gained fair wages and benefits as well as renewed respect from the public, administrators and the politicians. 
It took a good twenty years of hard work but it was worth it. People gained pride in themselves and in their profession and were eager to say "Yes, I'm a teacher". It came to a point where teachers were actually invited to participate in decision making regarding education and their opinions were valued.
I retired in 2004 and since then I have seen a rapid decline in all that for which we worked so hard.
Today, when some say "Yes, I'm a teacher" he is perceived as greedy, lazy and possessing poor work ethics. All these negative stereotypes are constantly reinforced by the media and self serving politicos.
  Teachers are no longer asked to  participate or make suggestions as to the improvement of our schools. They are merely being held responsible for the poor outcomes of the plans and schemes implemented by "educational experts" and politicians.
All programs and regulations of the past, proposed and enacted by these "experts" have been abject failures as evidenced by the fact that they are continually replaced by new programs and schemes. Additionally, the State's two decade  takeover of the poorest city schools has resulted in no progress what so ever.
Now, since none of the aforementioned has worked, the only plan left seems to be, blame the teachers and then transfer the schools into private, for profit hands.
All this has occurred since 2004 and is accelerating.
You might ask me, "Why do you care? You're retired".
Here's why!
Teachers have become like abused children lacking self respect and fearful. They are constantly required to succumb to the dictates of arrogant, condescending supervisors. Rarely are they allowed to pursue their own worthwhile approaches in educating our children.  I find it depressing to see the profession in which I spent my entire life being reduced to that of an unappreciated, ridiculed field hand.
I would like to begin to use this blog as an outlet for teacher's daily frustration and anger and help the profession to regain the pride that once existed.
It pains me to see all that has been achieved over the past forty years being erased without some much as a whimper.
I've said this before. ( I am sure you know, as a teacher you say things over and over again in the classroom and the habit just follows you into your social conversation without your even realizing it.)
Ross Perot, when at Ford once said, and I paraphrase, "Unless a manager goes down to the factory floor and puts a wheel on a car once in a while, he can't be a good manager".
I would like to see the opinions and thoughts of those "on the factory floor" heeded and respected.  Those people are you who read this blog.
I am considering posing questions about education and teaching and asking for your comments and suggestions. I would then like to post them, with or without the author's name, and get a conversation going about the real problems and solutions in education.
This, hopefully, could be the start of an effective way to stem the tide of teacher bashing and disrespect. I think it could serve the cause better than just my constant diatribes and ranting.
 Having your voice heard, I believe,  will lead to greater self esteem and promote challenges to the forces that would destroy our profession.
What do you think?
A good idea or not?
Something in which you would be willing to participate?
Drop me a line and tell me what you think? Thanks.

Click here to Email

I really see NJEA doing little to fight back. (I don't even see their sappy ads on TV any more!)
It is disheartening to say the least when a "powerful" union as they would like to call themselves, doing little or nothing for their members. (Members who send them tons of money each and every pay day!)