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February 20, 2009

NJ residents challenge teacher contracts

The Wall Street meltdown has created a big hole in New York State's budget, cost thousands of financial services workers their jobs--and also has residents of affluent New Jersey suburbs questioning the size of teacher pay raises. Can New York suburbanites be far behind?

The Newark Star-Ledger describes the mood in Summit, where 20 percent of the residents work in financial services.

In a community where parents have been known to ask for more education funding -- not less -- school board president Patricia Calhoun said she has been hearing from residents concerned about the teachers contract. They worry what it will mean for their property tax bill, which averages $10,000 a year.
Business Week has listed Summit among the 20 towns nationwide that could be hardest hit by the recession.
"We did bring up the state of the economy and the Business Week article" during negotiations, Calhoun said, adding there is a tentative deal that still must be ratified. "The landscape of funding for public education is so different, especially with the economy tanking. There's not a lot we can feel confident about."
Calhoun would not disclose the terms of the proposed contract, because it has not been finalized.

The average New Jersey teacher was paid $62,667 during the 2007-08 school year. The Star-Ledger reports teachers are still getting raises, but they have shrunk slightly.

The New Jersey School Boards Association said the average salary increase for teachers for the 2009-10 school year is 4.5 percent statewide, and many of those deals were negotiated a few years ago.

But for contracts that have been settled since last October, the average raise has dropped to 4.4 percent, according to the school boards association. That's down from 4.69 percent in the 2004-05 school year.

In Roxbury, N.J., the school board last month created public protests when it approved a four-year contract granting 20 percent raises, including a 4.3 percent retroactive raise to last year and 4.7 percent in each of the next three years.

Recession? What recession?

Posted by Lise Bang-Jensen

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