Saturday, June 16, 2007


I was overjoyed when I found the following piece on The Bulletin a Philadelphia based newspaper. I am glad to see more groups speaking out against unions and more newspapers reporting about the issue.

To learn more about Union click here.

The piece below appeared in The Bulletin.

Campaign Against A Teachers' Union In Newark
By: Bradley Vasoli, The Bulletin

The Newark (N.J.) chapter of the American Federation of Teachers maintains the "traditional mission of our public schools has been to prepare our nation's young people for equal and responsible citizenship and productive adulthood."

But the nonprofit Center for Union Facts (CUF) has spent months telling parents that the city's teachers remain worlds away from realizing their mission. Their advertising effort has cast a light on the uncanny ease with which teachers can keep their jobs, whatever their proficiency level.

And the campaign's most provocative days lie ahead. The group has recently focused on addressing the massive expenditures made by the Newark Public Schools (NPS). CUF is now emblazoning unflattering data pertaining to the Newark Teachers' Union (NTU) on numerous billboards and 125 city buses.

CUF's advertisements will read:
* "FACT: Newark spends over $750,000 for every standard high school diploma awarded. Another Reason the Newark Teachers Union Gets an 'F'."

* "FACT: 7 of 10 Newark students never earn a standard high school diploma. Another Reason the Newark Teachers Union Gets an 'F'."

CUF notes that taxpayers spent $18,035 for each Newark public school student in the 2004-2005 school year, 38 percent more than what New Jersey and its other school districts spend per child annually, on average.

"You've got a ton of money being spent," Jon Berry, a senior research analyst at CUF, told The Bulletin.

The group doubts students reap any benefits from these massive expenditures, no small part of which go toward teacher salaries and benefits packages.

CUF points out that in the last four years, only 30.6 percent of its students left Newark's school system with a standard diploma. Moreover, they report that 20 percent of the city's schools face a federal takeover.

"Let's face it," CUF executive director Richard Berman said. "If the return on investment was this low in a business, heads would roll. But because the NTU protects bad teachers, even a 30.6 percent graduation rate isn't enough to get more than about one tenured teacher fired a year."

Newark's public schools terminate about one in 3,050 teachers each year, according to statistics CUF culled from the schools' records custodians. CUF mentions that tenured teachers are 4.6 times more likely to die in office than get dismissed.

The difficulty in dismissing a teacher for incompetence owes to the protracted appeals process New Jersey's school districts would necessarily undergo to fire a teacher. School personnel decisions in the state can be appealed all the way up to the New Jersey Department of Education, Berry said.

The result, he explained, is that the district finds itself backed up with many cases it can't terminate and therefore focuses on firing only the most incapable or malfeasant individuals. To bear this out, the group cites a case of one teacher who sexually harassed some of his female students and received four months in severance pay.

The infrequency of teacher firings has burned forcibly on the minds of this group. "By protecting bad teachers, the NTU does serious damage to professionalism in teaching," Berry said.

On the flipside, Berry noted that Newark's and other teachers unions in the state
have effectively stood in the way of any merit pay system for teachers. Thus, he says, excellence in teaching is difficult to encourage monetarily.

NTU certainly hasn't reacted warmly to the campaign's efforts, but their president Joseph DelGrosso says it has hardly disturbed the union's modus operandi or its satisfaction with its teachers' performances. DelGrosso notes that he was recently re-elected to his post comfortably despite (or, he implies, because of) CUF's efforts. He mentioned their opposition to him in his campaign literature.

"My hat's off to Mr. Berman," DelGrosso said. "He's a very helpful guy."
DelGrosso said CUF ignored the concern and care for students he believes his union has demonstrated. He cites as an example the more than $100,000 NTU raises each year for college scholarships. He contrasted that with the fact that CUF (a research nonprofit) has not raised any such funds.

According to DelGrosso, NTU also runs workshops for teachers in low-performing schools and has partnered with Seton Hall University for a takeover of Newton Elementary, a public school that has struggled in the recent past to prepare its students for higher grades.

The union leader criticized the public support that CUF and Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) have given each other. He said Booker's support of private school vouchers has rendered him hostile toward NTU and friendly toward CUF.

Berry noted that CUF does not advocate any particular education reform policy, but merely opposes excessive teachers union power.

"Our purpose is simply to shine a light on these problems," Berry said.
"Our statistics should be a wake-up call to anyone who believes that the abysmal graduation rates from Newark schools are a result of underfunding," Berman said.

"Clearly, money isn't the problem. The problem is that the Newark Teachers Union won't hold bad teachers accountable for poor results and hamstrings good teachers with endless bureaucracy."

Newark is the first of many jurisdictions the D.C.-based CUF will spotlight nationwide. They stress their view that Newark's situation is hardly unique.
Neither side seems to register any worry about public perception. Both DelGrosso and Berry have said their respective organizations have received much public support after CUF's campaign started. But Berry noted even some of Newark's public school teachers wrote to encourage the movement.

"There have been a lot of folks who have written us to say, 'Please keep it coming'," he said.
Bradley Vasoli can be reached at

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