New Jersey Education Fight Shows Union Pettiness

When it comes to schools, state and local bureaucracies are every bit as entrenched and self-serving as they are in Washington.

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By Scott Galupo, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Back in my days as a staffer involved in selling the No Child Left Behind bill to a skeptical Republican caucus, we had to penetrate brick walls of boilerplate—especially the idea that education is the exclusive province of states and local districts.

This is descriptively true. Most education spending is sub-federal, and it will likely remain that way for good. But as an ideal, it shouldn’t be the end of the story. Other nonpartisan ideals—sunlight, empiricism, accountability—are just as important.

One need only look at the New Jersey Education Association’s furious opposition to Gov. Chris Christie’s pay-freeze proposal to see that fears of “nationalization” miss the point when it comes to education. State and local bureaucracies are every bit as entrenched and self-serving locally as they are in Washington. And as George Will wrote in 1991: “[L]ocalism makes less and less sense in a nation of increasing mobility among regions, a nation flunking—as a nation—the international test of competitiveness.”

Christie faces a teachers union balking at proposals that they take a temporary pay freeze and contribute a portion of their salary toward their health benefits (only 12 percent of teachers pay health insurance premiums, according to the Newark Star-Ledger). And the union shrouds its self-interest in the cloak of "the children."

Hope and change? Yup. The hard way.

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