Teachers ponder meaning of Obama victory for N.J. schools

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Teachers ponder meaning of Obama victory for N.J. schools

by John Mooney /The Star-Ledger

Thursday November 06, 2008, 7:17 PM

It’s the largest teachers convention in the country, a decidedly blue-tinged gathering in one of the nation’s bluest states.

But for all the exultant support of Barack Obama’s victory at the opening of the New Jersey Education’s convention Thursday, teachers on the floor of the vast Atlantic City center also worried about what happens next.

Vincent Blasse, a Trenton middle school teacher, said Obama will inspire teachers and especially students.

But asked how the new president might fix the No Child Left Behind act, Blasse wasn’t so sure. And when it came to Obama’s support of merit pay for teachers, he was downright troubled.

“It can breed greed and individualism,” Blasse said. “They will no longer see themselves as team players.”

Thus is the fragile line Obama will need to tread with education, carrying strong union support but also a few positions that would clearly roil the status quo.

On one side, Obama has pledged greater federal support for public schools with additional funding and programs like preschool and after-school services.

He has said he would make changes to the federal No Child Left Behind act, a chief villain to many teachers and their unions.

Yet Obama also has bucked the traditional labor line. In addition to championing merit pay for teachers, he espouses extra incentives for those working in high-need schools, and strongly supports innovations like charter schools.

Joyce Powell, president of the NJEA, praised Obama as “pro-public education” but quickly conceded some tensions.

“We may have our differences of opinion on some things,” she said.

Much will rest on whom Obama picks as his education secretary, with a short list of names being bandied about including Colin Powell and New York City Chancellor Joel Klein.

Obama’s general support for merit pay — providing teachers extra money based on their performance — is the one topic already raising eyebrows. He has yet to unveil any concrete proposal, but considers the idea important enough to mention publicly.

He has said it’s a concept best handled at the local bargaining table, and NJEA President Powell said she has already seen it start to creep into negotiations — if not embraced — by a handful of New Jersey districts.

She argues it should come as a give-and-take with teachers.

“If they are going to broach that, why not let us also negotiate class sizes or textbook selection?” she said. “They have to understand that when we put an idea like that on the table, other things come with it.”

A sampling of her members — nearly 35,000 of whom attended the first day of the convention — indicated similar sentiments. The younger teachers were more likely to support merit pay than the veterans, but not exclusively.

Sean Spiller, a 33-year-old science teacher at Wayne Valley High School, said Obama’s election and that of a Democratic majority to Congress is good news for teachers who want a softening in No Child Left Behind and more money behind it.

But he said the idea of merit pay for teachers was something he couldn’t support.

“You can’t have two teachers working next to each other and comparing their test scores,” he said. “It doesn’t work.”

Angela Yelverton, sporting an Obama button, described the spring in her students’ steps at Camden’s Creative Arts High School on Wednesday; the school’s band is vying to get in on the Inaugural festivities.

But she wondered how much will happen to No Child Left Behind, with all the competing points of view. “Hopefully he’ll at least listen to us in the trenches,” she said.

Yelverton, 36, said while merit pay may benefit her as a teacher, it’s a lot trickier than it sounds.

“I’m one of those who go above and beyond,” she said, “so in one way I’m for it. But what is the measuring tool? Is just staying late or working on Saturdays going to tell you that?”

  1. Well, one thing is for certain, Obama will support the teachers union’s efforts to stifle accountability by opposing the creation of competitive alternatives to the failing schools in our urban districts.

    He flat out stated that he was against school choice. This, in the face of black mayors in our inner cities begging for it.

    When 1/3 of the Democrat delegates at their national convention are members of the teachers’ union, need any one wonder why?

    Besides, if the Democrats actually educated poor minorities, they would loose their political base.

    Once some one reaches the middle class or higher, the idea of redistributing their income becomes problematic for politicians.

    The larger the middle class the less likely pols will be able to convince citizens that they should surrender large chunks of the income for those who will not study in school and therefore lift themselves out of poverty.

    There are no more excuses for the failure of Americans of African descent in our country. It is time they stood up and became accountable for themselves. Let’s see if Obama can convey this message. The victim/race card is no longer valid. Obama voided its value when he was elected.

    It is now time for blacks to demand that they receive a way out of poverty. And we all know that will only come with education. If school reform and school choice is not given to urban populations it is because those of their race wish it to remain so for their own selfish gain.

    Oh, and it might be added with the help of Liberal/Socialist whites who wish to stay in power too. All at the expense of the minorities they so publicly weep for.

  2. If so-called minorities ever received a decent education they wouldn’t view themselves as “minorities” or victims any more. The cabal of white liberals, Jewish civil rights liberals and self-anointed black leaders can’t allow this to happen. No matter what, they will NOT allow this to happen.

  3. ok 10:58 by your logic…
    6 million people murdered by the Nazi’s most of them Jews and most of them educated. Are you saying that the Jews were victims because they didn’t “receive a decent education”? You should think before you write.

  4. How far left can the teachers union go?

    Is is possible to pay more for less education?

    Yes it is.

  5. 12:53 Jews much like Asians, are not usually referenced as “minorities” in the media. When that despicable term is used it usually reflects Blacks and sometimes Hispanics (unless they’re from Spain).

  6. 1:47, the fellow who posted as 12:54 knew exactly what you were referring to by your use of the word “minorities.”

    He was just being his usual persnickety self. Besides what does the holocaust have to due with the enslavement of poor blacks and Hispanics to the government dole by their nanny state patrons of the Democrat Party?

    None, I would think. He just didn’t like you calling out his fellow travelers for what they really are, parasites on the backs of the poor sucking the life from them for their own political edification.

  7. 12:53 was responding to the comment posted at 10:58 who did state that Jews are both victims and a minority and the liberal jews want it that way. Reread the posts. 12:53 was justly responding to 10:58’s nonsense.

  8. On Merit pay…

    “…the idea of merit pay for teachers was something he (Spiller – a teacher) couldn’t support.
    You can’t have two teachers working next to each other and comparing their test scores,” he said. “It doesn’t work.”

    “…when it came to Obama’s support of merit pay for teachers, he (Blasse – a teacher) was downright troubled.
    It can breed greed and individualism,”

    We certainly don’t want our teachers to model any competitive spirit and (God forbid) Individualism in our indoctrination centers (oops, I mean schools).

  9. Ditto 4:28. They’re creepy leftists aren’t they? To think, they have our children as hostages to their indoctrination.

  10. 3:50 PM, I read and reread the post by 10:58.

    I don’t know what you are talking about. 10:58 said nothing about Jews being victims.

    But then again, you enjoy taking insult when none was given. I guess you want to be a victim and don’t like that you were excluded.

  11. 3:50 What are you saying? I am the 10:58 poster and I did not include Jews as “victims.” You’re off your rocker! Rather I noted that many Jews joined white liberals and self-anointed black leaders as the supposed saviors of the Black and Hispanic “minority” underclass. Any conservative who is Black is especially hated by this cabal — need I say Clarence Thomas, for starters or Thomas Sowell?

    Ever heard the phrase, “Jews vote like Puerto Ricans but live like Presbyterians?” They are not viewed as victims — victims of an evil German regime in the 30s, yes, but victims now, hardly.

  12. We are talking about the disadvantage purposely perpetrated on minorities (black and Hispanic) by liberals.

    This has nothing to do with Jews except that they are overwhelmingly liberal and help to oppress blacks and Hispanics with their pandering and patronization.

  13. Why should teachers, or auto workers for that matter, be evaluated and paid for their performance like every other worker in the country? That just isn’t fair. These union members, with whom Obama has squarely has aligned himself, deserve a guaranteed paycheck, annual raises and better benefits for life than other Americans, don’t they?

    Never mind that the UAW is singlehandedly responsible for the legacy costs that add approximately $9K to every car detroit manufactures. The comparable costs from foreign manufacturers is about 1/3 of that. Oh, and by the way, that is the principal reason that GM is in so much trouble. It is not unlike the situation that the NJEA has created for NJ public schools.

    Organized labor in this country outlived its usefulness decades ago. Unions are now a debilitating burden on American competitiveness. They have bred generations of workers, who feel entitled and don’t feel that they should be paid for the quality of the work they perform. Don’t believe me? Go back and read Sean Spiller’s comments, the 33-year-old science teacher at Wayne Valley High School, who said he “can’t support merit pay.” Why not Sean, afraid you won’t stack up against your peers? The idea of pay for performance is EXACTLY what is needed in public school systems around the country. Face it people, public school finance and the quality of education is broken in this country. Adhering to the same union mantra of the past 40 years will ensure that it only gets worse.

    How ironic that the educators teaching our young children are the ones who have failed to learn from history and choose to remain ignorant, out of their own greed, at the expense of America’s youth.

    No wonder they overwhelmingly support Obama, just like the African American woman who was caught on camera the day after the election praising Obama victory, because now “she won’t have to pay her mortgage”. Do we really want to live in a welfare state? Or, do we want to to live in a country, where anything is possible, if you are will ing to work for it (and be compensated accordingly)?

  14. How do you evaluate which teacher did better? Do you base it on standardized tests? In that case teachers will have no choice but to teach to the test. What about a teacher who has 30 students in a class being compared to a teacher with 15 students? What about teachers with high numbers of students with IEPs who may have issues with leaning and testing? Do you base merit pay on grades? In that case we will have such ridiculous grade inflation that an “A” from Ridgewood will be meaningless and valueless. Before we argue about Merit Pay, perhaps someone should suggest a system that is at least better than the test and punish system that NCLB became. Find solutions, not just alternatives.

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