Governor Christie called it. When you start targeting teachers, some may invoke the “what about the children” defense. In reality that is a somewhat intimidating argument. No one wants to be against children. And in reality no one wants to be “against” teachers.
But in a time of shared sacrifice there are some uncomfortable issues that teachers and their union, the NJEA must face. Some Democrats in the legislature are very unhappy about the tactics the NJEA has employed since this discussion began. That includes threats to the Dems if they go along with the Governor and try and force teachers to pay for health care, among other concessions.
But here is the reality. Roughly 10 – 11% of teachers pay something towards their health benefits. So when Christie says the vast majority do not, he’s right. The NJEA argues that teachers have reached those contracts through the collective bargaining process meaning they may have given up something else to get there. True enough. And the cold hard fact is this: You can’t really make any demands on the NJEA. After all, every contract is negotiated at the local level with individual bargaining units. There are more than a thousand of them spread out through more than 600 school districts.
So, you can pressure them publicly on health care, but you can’t make a sweeping change in Trenton like you can with say, the CWA. But during his budget speech Christie chose to highlight the teachers union as an example of what needs to change in Trenton. That was a departure from the usual punching bag which is the union representing state employees. he has clearly tapped into some public resentment, which if it’s not felt in Trenton, may very well be widely felt in towns across New Jersey.
Even enrollees in FamilyCare pay up to 2.3% of their salaries. FamilyCare is the option for poor families that is funded through the state. If the most vulnerable among us can cough up a certain percentage, it’s hard to argue that teachers don’t have to.
Programming note: Title is from the 80’s classic “The Flamingo Kid” where the guy from the old neighborhood asks his girlfriend to acrobatically fold herself up like a pretzel. She says no, but when he asks her to do it “for the kid,” she acquiesces…which prompts Matt Dillon to say “get me outta here.”