State Journal: Breakthrough, Out of the Question

June 05, 1991 2 min read

The sniping between New Jersey educators and the state’s Democratic politicians seems to be reaching a new level of intensity.

Over the past year, the erstwhile allies have fought bitterly over such issues as state support for teacher pensions and the transfer of $350 million in education aid to local property-tax relief.

A sponsor of the latter effort, President of the Senate John A. Lynch, addressed the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and New Jersey School Boards Association last month, and used the occasion to launch a rhetorical salvo directly at his audience.

Mr. Lynch told educators they care more about themselves than their students and charged that they were putting educational programs on the chopping block while negotiating annual pay hikes of 9 percent to 10 percent.

“You accuse me of ‘education bashing’ for daring to challenge your business-as-usual attitude,” he charged. “I challenge you to stop hiding behind the kids.”

He expressed outrage that the man who had invited him to speak, James Moran, executive secretary of the school administrators’ association, had called him “anti-education” while earning a $135,000 annual salary and “a nice piece of change on the side negotiating six-figure golden parachutes for tenured superintendents.”

Still, Mr. Lynch concluded by urging that educators and Democrats tone down their “harsh rhetoric” and be allies once again.

Choosing to emphasize the positive side of the speech, Mr. Moran last week responded by calling it “the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.”

In Arkansas, though, another prominent Democratic politician is back in the good graces of state teachers.

Gov. Bill Clinton has had uneasy relations at times with the Arkansas Education Association ever since he proposed teacher testing in 1983.

But the aea’s president recently was quoted as saying the strains over the testing issue were “over and done with.”

“It’s one of the things we’ll always remember,” said Sid Johnson, ''but we don’t dwell on it.”

For his part, Mr. Clinton stood up for teachers last month by warning school districts not to profit from new state money intended for their employees.

Mr. Clinton pushed through a sales-tax increase this year to fund teacher raises. Some have suggested, however, that districts might withhold the money before giving it out, thus earning interest.

But, Mr. Clinton told reporters, “That’s out of the question."--jw & hd

A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 1991 edition of Education Week as State Journal: Breakthrough, Out of the Question