Superintendent of schools to NJ governor: spare education

David C Verducci, the Superintendent of Schools of Glen Rock, NJ, has sent a letter to state governor Chris Christie, asking him to spare education in the state's round of econopocalyptic cost-cutting, explaining in passionate and stirring language the need to commit to education even in bad times.
Make us -ALL of the stakeholders here- a partner in the process.

This first item is the most important of all. Please stop talking at us! Talk to us! We are not the enemy! Make us a partner in the endeavor to fix New Jersey. From the superintendent of schools to the part-time cafeteria worker, the overwhelming majority of us who spend our professional lives in the public schools are hard-working people who want to see children succeed. Building a coalition with the educational community for the betterment of the common good will not happen if you simply continue to dictate the terms of change. We have a lot of good ideas. We can help you accomplish your goals."

Open letter from Superintendent of Schools of Glen Rock, NJ to Gov. Christie (PDF) (Thanks, Michael!)


  1. The way to look at this is to consider how tax revenues and inflation have grown over the last few years, and compare that with education spending. If education spending has been growing faster than taxes/inflation, they will need to cut back spending. If they have been growing slower, there should be an opportunity to expand. But my guess is it is the former. In the current economy, there is a general need to do more with less, and that includes the education system.

  2. If the teachers are/were willing to take a one-year pay freeze then some of the cuts wouldn’t have to be made. The state teacher’s union hasn’t wanted to even talk about ‘shared sacrifice’. I’ve had a pay freeze since some time last year and we here in NJ pay some of the highest property tax in the US.

  3. Nice to see even the supposedly enlightened BB readers have also bought into the anti-teacher propaganda.

    1. As a college instructor let me say there’s a big difference between being anti-teachers union and being anti-teacher. It’s disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

  4. The union is far from the only problem plaguing New Jersey’s public schools, and yet it’s the only issue that Christie seems interested in pursuing.

    I’m surprised he hasn’t proposed the ultimate privatization of the state’s education system, given that this is very clearly his long-term goal.

    Christie has an axe to grind, and the children of New Jersey are going to pay a steep price for it.

    1. @#4 : What axe is Christie grinding? People act like education is the only thing facing cuts, when in reality it might seem that way only because the NJEA is throwing a screaming hissy fit rather than come to the table. Christie made overtures for concessions that would save many jobs, but rather than even consider it the NJEA stuck its fingers in its ears and shouted that he was a mean old fattie who hates kids and teachers. The union’s behavior has been appalling, to the point where the president of the Bergen County chapter prayed for the governor’s death in a memo distributed to 17,000 people. The NJEA has been getting what it wants without a fight for so long, they seem to have forgotten what it’s like to compromise.

  5. this is what happens when you depend on government for anything that matters. and it blows me away to no end how so many people will lambaste the government for its bumbling, bureaucratic inefficiency in virtually every facet of its function, and yet, somehow, they not only trust and depend on these self important fools to provide the necessary resources to educate our children, but will balk at the idea of abolishing public schooling with an incredulity that could only be matched if one were to suggest that we should round up and execute everyone with AIDS as a solution to that problem.

    Public schools breed obedience in a world so very deserving of contempt. They indoctrinate the masses with anti-drug propaganda, zero-tolerance policies in environment where it is simply understood that anything of consequence is not to be questioned. Rational arguments are met with dismissal and ridicule; no, young man, you cannot be right because that’s not the way things are.

    Meanwhile, the increasingly senile and apathetic tenured ‘educators’ are given preference over younger, enthusiastic up and comers when cuts are made – and what logic, the young ones would cost half what the dinosaurs do.

    Parents are given almost no choice as to where their child attends, nor much say in the manner in which their child is educated. It’s a conveyor belt designed to churn out unquestioning lemmings, a way to pass the time until the kids are old enough to be taxed. Beyond their potential for revenue, the children of this country are of little concern to those in charge. Except for THEIR children, of course.

    But of course, I’m just a tinfoil hat wearing nutjob teabagger to the world (even though i’m not) since that’s what y’all have been taught I am. Therefor, according to your indoctrination, it’s perfectly fine to dismiss my opinion out of hand without addressing it, as I couldn’t possibly be right, since that’s just not the way things are.

  6. Because the “enlightened” BB readers believe that some teachers unions are unfairly compensated and have untenable benefits and pensions that they are unwilling to make any meaningful concessions on in the face of state bankruptcy, they’re buying into anti-teacher propaganda?

    Face it, if teachers truly cared about the students, they’d take a meaningful cut. They’d allow a grandfathered change in their pension contributions. They wouldn’t use scare tactics and hold people’s kids hostage in their negotiations.

    Look at the RI case, where teachers were offered $30/hour in overtime to provide tutoring and aid to their underachieving students, and they turned around and demanded $90/hr, and were shocked when they were all fired.

    Many (not all) unions seem to have a hard time grasping that a 20% cut is better than a 100% cut.

    1. On the other hand, they have a reasonable expectation that the stipulations of their contract will be met – such an expectation is at the very core of capitalism, at the core of the very idea of commerce.

      The issue isn’t that the teachers ought to bear the burden of the state’s folly. The unions, at the very least, ought to be abolished. But in order to secure a reliable education system, the means for providing the resources the schools require need to be in the hands of people who can actually deliver. Affordable, unsubsidized education is not a pipe dream, but it would require a substantial reduction in taxes – and there, my friend, is the rub. They don’t care that the money they take seems to vanish into thin air, but they do care very much about taking it.

    2. “Face it, if teachers truly cared about the students, they’d take a meaningful cut.”

      Face it, if firefighters truly cared about putting out fires, they’d take a meaningful cut.

      Face it, if police truly cared about stopping crime, they’d take a meaningful cut.

      Face it, if garbagemen truly cared about clean neighborhoods, they’d take a meaningful cut.

      What’s the difference between teachers and other public servants? Oh yes, a high prevalence of breasts. And a high prevalence of masters degrees. Does that mean they deserve to get paid less?

  7. Feel the Pain no share the pain,,,,I’m unemployed…I’ve lost much ,,,I need say no more than yes to my loved ones,,,taxes went up and have not declined as rapidly as values came down in realty…NO MORE FOREIGN AID its AMERICAN AID that;s needed now!!!

  8. *cough*

    State aid to education is a non-starter. The cuts are at most 5% from 2008 levels. The cuts from 2009 levels are significantly larger, but that’s because state aid was inflated by a federal grant to the tune of $1b and change.

    The biggest expense by far are personnel costs, teachers police, and firefighters (whose benefits border on the obscene, such as paying out for 600+ unused sick days on retirement). Teachers are paid by the state, and police and firefighters are paid by property taxes, which the state then rebates a percentage of back to taxpayers. To a lesser extent the state pays out charity care to hospitals to cover medical care for the poor/uninsured.

    So that’s the choice. Either see personnel costs get cut to sustainable levels, or lose all the property tax subsidies, and see property taxes go even higher.

  9. Anyone who thinks that service industry spending should track inflation (as opposed to leading it) needs to understand Cost Disease:

    In a nutshell: automation creates efficiencies in manufacturing at a faster rate than it creates efficiencies in the service sector (a Mozart symphony takes the same amount of time to perform today as it did centuries ago; the building of symphony halls can be accomplished in a fraction of the time).

    Inflation is generally an index of the cost of manufactured goods. Those costs go down MUCH faster than service (teaching, waiting tables, doctoring, massage) costs do. Therefore, service will get “more expensive” (actually, it’s getting cheaper more slowly) over time.

    The only exception is when new markets — e.g. Indian call centers — are opened up that temporarily cause wages to chase down to untenably low levels. But these are temporary “sugar highs” in service productivity, as even Indian call centers don’t get cheaper as quickly as other sectors of Indian manufacture.

    1. “Therefore, service will get ‘more expensive’ (actually, it’s getting cheaper more slowly) over time.”

      Is there any evidence that educational services are getting cheaper over time? I’ve never seen anyone claim that, especially with data to back up the claim.

      1. even without data to back it up, consider that a $100 computer can access the entirety of human knowledge in a quickly searchable format. now think about all the books that would take, the space to store them, and the logistics of finding information and providing it to students in a timely fashion.

        in short, how much more do you know about, well, everything, that you likely wouldn’t were it not for the internet?

        it stands to reason that since access to knowledge is cheaper and faster than ever, that yes, education OUGHT to be costing less, or at least in theory there exists models of education that WOULD cost less.

        1. Access to information is not the key to good education. You must have a human to interpret and administer the information in a way that is not overwhelming to the student.
          Excuss me but I do not subscribe to the Randian notion that the free market is god and everything the government does sucks.

      2. Is there any evidence that educational services are getting cheaper over time? I’ve never seen anyone claim that, especially with data to back up the claim.

        Just wait until we have robot teachers.

        IDK, but teaching was originally the domain of a fairly limited number of highly educated people. Now there are a lot more educated people so the cost (controlling for everything else) has probably gone down a LOT since the days of governesses and tutors.

        It’ll go up if there are more kids, better schools, a higher teacher-student ratio, or kids with special needs. Education a domain where we could always improve service — better education for more people.

        The costs are hard to measure and easy to justify.

    2. Cory’s discussion of “cost disease” is a neat piece of trivia, but it really has nothing to do with the cost of education.

      Education spending has not been growing at the rate of inflation or slightly higher than it. No, education spending, even index on a per-child basis (so as to account for increasing population) has exploded since the 1960s, without any measurable improvement in quality.

      Education spending needs to be reduced dramatically, as it’s a major contributor to the bankrupting of our states. And there is overwhelming evidence that huge cuts can be made while increasing quality by abandoning the government monopoly in providing education services.

      Indexing spending to inflation plus some amount (as was done in Colorado) is decidedly not the answer.

    3. Well, lets say that Cost Disease is the main reason for explosion of educational costs (probably is in Higher ed to some degree)

      What can one do? A tax base doesn’t grow faster than (get cheaper more slowly than?) the rate of educational costs. So how will government pay for more-slowly-cheap education when the tax base actually shrinks?

      You can cut extraneous programs or cut wages and benefits. If wages and benefits seem rather high (Teachers not even contributing to their healthplan?) then that seems like the way to go.

  10. I am in HI, and this letter could have been sent, almost word for word, to our governor. Admittedly, our government, education included, expanded during the boom times last decade, and now needs to be pruned. However, our governor seems to be pandering to the loudest of the extreme right wing elements and attacking all government spending with an indiscriminate flamethrower. She is reluctant to negotiate reasonably, with ‘my way or the highway’ high-handedness; apparently she wants her legacy to be that of a union buster. This is after all 4 of the government employee unions recognized the state’s fiscal crisis and agreed to pay cuts and/or furloughs. Are the unions partially to blame? Sure, but so is the administration, and expecting the union membership to take the complete fall when there is plenty of stupidity for all is ridiculous.

  11. Has it actually occurred to anyone that there’s nothing “holding kids hostage” but the adults bickering back and forth without having an actual discussion amongst grownups?

    I’d like to personally thank Cory and for posting this letter. Regardless of what side of the argument you’re on, please keep in mind that New Jersey is one of the most densely populated urban areas in the United States. There are a lot of kids there.

    There are a lot of kids missing out. Both sides ought to be able to sit down and figure out an expedient solution to this crisis.

  12. Has anyone pointed out that the cut to education is only 8% and was meant to target management of the school system (like the 6 figure salaries of superintendents and their over payed staff)? Or that the teacher’s union has consistently refused the salary freeze proposed by Governor Christie as well as any proposal to contribute 1.5% of teacher’s salaries into their own pension fund, instead of leaving the entire burden to the state? Has anyone bothered to mention the fact that there are over 600 school districts in the state of NJ, many of which have less than 100 students and some without any actual schools, while bigger states have much fewer (I believe has about 67, for example)? Has anyone bothered to mention that the teacher’s union and local townships have refused ALL compromise attempts by the governor? Or that the head of the NJEA (the NJ teacher’s union) is made $550k last year and that the NJEA is the single biggest contributor to the NJ Democratic party? How about that the 8% budget cut to education is one of the smaller budget cuts being made in a state facing a $10 billion budget deficit? How about the fact that the NJEA launched a multi-million dollar campaign of misinformation about Christie’s intended cuts on NY and Philly television and radio while Christie is working with local radio and television news stations to defend his position because he refuses to use state funds?
    Here’s another factoid: NJEA was the biggest campaign contributor to some of the NJ State Politicians that Christie arrested on corruption charges in his time as a federal prosecutor.
    Before you start talking about how someone’s “anti-children” or “anti-teacher” or “anti-education,” how about getting your facts straight? Teachers are not the enemy and never were. They are just becoming the victims of system of corruption fighting back against someone that’s trying to clean it up.

  13. Anyone got ratios on the number of Superintendents vs the number of teachers and corresponding salaries?

    How about the percentage of each tax dollar spent on education that actually goes to teachers?

    1. The article you linked also provides a pretty good explanation for the discrepancy.

  14. Last one should have been @#5. Sorry.

    While I’m here, @#14:
    Maybe we should price-check what poor, beleaguered school superintendents are making. Oh look, David C. Verducci makes $185,942 a year. *He makes more than the governor.* How is that justifiable? That’s not even a high salary for a superintendent. Is there any reason why we need to have 616 school districts in NJ? 171 have only a single building, 23 of them don’t even have any schools at all. But they all have superintendents, all earning six-figure salaries.

    The sensible thing to do is to consolidate districts down to a reasonable number and cut millions in administration costs. There’s an 11 Billion dollar budget deficit.

  15. Stratosfyr – But expectations have probably also gone up. We expect kids to learn all kinds of tings now. Way beyond the 3 Rs.

    It would be interesting to separate out teacher cost, administrative cost (overhead) and materials cost.

  16. Every “noble” professional that depends on tax money has the same argument: “please spare me, and take the money from the rich”. This rests on the wrong assumption that the rich are an un-ending source of money for any bureaucrat’s “noble” mission. The truth is that money is obviously limited and even if you beggar the millionaires there’s not enough money for all the noble plans.

  17. I’m a student at a high school in NJ, and it sucks. Teachers are getting fired left and right, they’re downsizing art programs, and worst of all, cutting sports. In some schools, they’re not only cutting smaller sports, but bigger sports like soccer!

    1. I’m not anti sports, I think they are an important component to our society, but sports should be the first thing cut. A schools main function is to educate and cuts to sports should always be made before cuts in the classroom.

      1. #29 Do sports not educate? Maybe higher level math should be cut, since not everyone takes those classes. How about APs? Remember, everyone learns in a different way, and everyone has different skills. A child who is struggling with academics may find an outlet in sports. Maybe the coach becomes their life coach. Maybe they find a way to get on their feet. This is not something any teacher can do. For me, it was my art teacher. Now, I’m getting my PhD. No subject is more important than the next.

    2. @#26… interesting how all that is already happening, considering that school budgets were only just voted on today. That’s some mighty fast firing and cutting, especially when you consider that said budget is for next school year.

      1. Thats a fair point but it doesn’t change the fact that the schools number one job is to educate the students, teachers are going to have a greater impact on more students. Sports cater to only a portion of the student body. Cutting classes (trade classes, job training classes) that might prepare students who do not wish/want to attend 4 year college over sports is going to have a greater impact than cutting down on the number of sports or even all together.
        Everyone in school goes to classes, some participate in sports.

        1. it doesn’t change the fact that the schools number one job is to educate the students

          Your view is only valid, and only theoretically so, if the school’s goal is to create productive workers. If the goal is to produce happy, well-adjusted adults who integrate well into society, non-academic activities are also important. Finland, which puts the most effort into socialization skills for its students, also consistently gets the highest academic scores.

          Sports also teach. As do art, music and other ‘soft’ subjects. Most people will find good motor skills, teamwork and strategic thinking to be more useful in life than calculus.

  18. Personal experience with teachers’ unions …. YMMV.

    Mrs. Notary Sojac taught in a large metropolitan school system for about fifteen years, and was a member of the union for twelve.

    She and many colleagues BEGGED the union over and over to take on the issues of bloated administration, paperwork encroaching on teaching time, micromanagement from the state DOE, and the idiotic “fad of the year” that periodically came down from the superintendent’s office.

    NOTHING DOING. Every time the union contract came up for review. it was always and only about (1) dollars and (2) tenure. Other issues? Zip, zero, nada.

    She quit the union, quit the public schools a couple of years later. Now she does specialty programs (music and arts) for homeschooling parents, and has never been happier with her work.

  19. Sorry, but I, for one, am not going to continue to be taxed into oblivion by the school districts. Between government waste and inefficiency, political favoritism, bloat in school administration, bad business practices, and the constant grind of newer and more taxes, the middle class in New Jersey is being obliterated.

    Governor Christie is asking the NJEA and the school districts for 1) a one-year pay freeze and 2) for teachers to pay 1.5% of their health insurance. I don’t think either request is unreasonable; a great number of us have had to tighten our belts in this state, trying to pay the crushing tax burden now upon us. Let the school districts tighten their belts and make due with the same budgets for next year that they had this year. Frankly, given what I see of my local school district, my tax money is being wasted, and I for one am fed up.

  20. I love it when people say teachers and educators “have to do more with less.” Has anybody EVER done more with less? No. It’s axiomatic that you do less with less. Less education, less-prepared students, less critical thinking, less quality.

    1. “Has anybody EVER done more with less? No.”

      I’ll grant that. But there sure are a lot of government agencies that have been very successful at doing less with more.

  21. If that was the case fine, however in my district the people that were RIFFED were the support staff and teachers. All the other people had their existing titles changed to a new job title., i.e. from supervisor to ass’t director and kept their jobs, mean while all 6 figure people in the Board Office kept their jobs and the superintendent approved the creation of new jobs(not needed)with 5 of them at 6 figures and the other 3 above 65,000 annually and hired new people into these jobs, funny thing the new people are from the Superintendents old district or she knows them personally. So I was layed off to accomodate someone else. Now I have to collect unemployment until I can find a job (I’m 50, so its hard as heck to even have someone look at my resume and I have sent out over 300 resumes in the past 2 months), if I don’t find a job I will not be able to afford my home, my 2 childrens college cost,etc. What ever happen to “America the land of the free” did they mean “Free Proverty” America is it’s own worst enemy. I don’t blame Chrsity on everything, it was all happening before he was elected (who elected him).

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