NorthJersey.com’s Terrence McDonald reported that several school districts are having to shift to all-remote instruction because teachers are threatening to take paid leave, leaving the districts without enough staff to open schools. McDonald noted that the NJEA had “already chalked up a win this month when Gov. Murphy reversed course and said he would allow districts to implement a union-backed plan to start the 2020-21 school year with all-remote learning.”
But apparently that was not enough. Now the NJEA wants to be the sole arbiters of whether it is safe to return to classrooms. Not the administrators who run the districts, not the school boards, and not the officials elected to run our government. NJEA President Marie Blistan flatly stated that “There is an inherent belief that when you drop your kids off to our buildings, if we say those buildings are safe, they’re safe. And right now, given the information we have, they are not safe.”
No wonder teachers are balking. Their own union is declaring that schools are unsafe. But how does the NJEA know that all school districts are unsafe? Moreover, this is not the NJEA’s decision to make in the first place.
Republican State Senator Declan O’Scanlan makes the point that public school parents learned this spring: remote-only learning is not effective and not worth the amount we pay for schools. O’Scanlan asks: “Can we get away with less teachers? If they don’t want to work, they can go on unemployment …”
NJ spent $20,021 per pupil in 2018, third highest in the nation, and spends more now. And of course school budgets make up the bulk of NJ’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes. If public school parents and taxpayers will be forced to pay for inferior, all-remote learning, will teachers be paid less? Will we need fewer teachers? Will the NJEA support right-sizing staffs and budgets to reflect the reality of all-remote schooling? Will teachers be furloughed until full in-school learning returns? Will property taxpayers get a rebate?
Of course not. The NJEA wants to determine school COVID policies and go all-remote, but it also wants school budgets to remain unaffected: no lay-offs, no furloughs, no pay-cuts and certainly no property tax rebates.
And dare we ask: what about the kids? The NJEA seems to have lost sight of the fact that the primary purpose of the public school system is to educate children. It is well documented that children suffer under all-remote learning both academically and socially, and that in some school districts a large number never even logged in during the spring, thus missing school entirely. The NJEA is entirely focused on its adult members but what about the kids who miss out?
Once again, parents, taxpayers and children do not appear to be on the NJEA’s list of priorities.