An Inconvenient Prayer

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

A teacher’s union in New Jersey included a controversial prayer in its recent memo opposing recently-elected Governor Chris Christie’s (R) proposed budget.  According to Patricia Alex, staff writer for The Bergen Record, the prayer contained therein states

“Dear Lord … this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. … I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.”

“The memo, sent to locals in the county earlier this week and obtained by The Record on Thursday, is signed by New Jersey Education Association field representatives, including Joe Coppola, president of the Bergen County Education Association,” writes Alex.

One signee—Coppola—told Alex that “‘Obviously, it’s inappropriate. … I would never wish anybody dead.’”

“Association president Joe Coppola says it was a joke and was never meant to be made public,” reports the Associated Press today.

However, Alex reports that “The tenor of the e-mail reflects growing acrimony as the NJEA appears to retrench while legislative debate over Christie’s budget begins. The NJEA campaign will be ‘in his face and hard-hitting—a real change from the old strategy,’ the memo says.”

Alex writes that “The ‘prayer’ has also been posted by fans a number of times on the Facebook page of New Jersey Teachers United Against Governor Chris Christie’s Pay Freeze, a group that now has nearly 67,000 followers. The site contains other vitriolic and profane postings as well.”

The BCEA is affiliated with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA); the president of the latter announced today that she will “personally” contact Governor Christie’s office and apologize for the prayer included in the memo. “It was intended as humor, but it is not funny,” asserts NJEA President Barbara Keshishian’s official April 9 statement.

“NJEA condemns the inappropriate ‘prayer’ contained in a letter sent by the NJEA Bergen County regional offices and our Bergen County affiliate,” she states. “Language such as that has no place in civil discourse.”

Both the BCEA and the state-wide NJEA oppose the Governor’s proposed cuts to education.

In this March ad (pdf) produced by the BCEA, the union argues that pension troubles are not the result of “too rich” teachers benefits, but because “a succession of governors and legislatures ignored their legal obligation to contribute to the system in 11 of those 15 years.”

“That’s why the pension system is under-funded, and no amount of finger-pointing at us is going to hide the fact that legislators have failed in their obligations,” it states.

According to Molly Brean with the Daily Princetonian, New Jersey has a $10.7 billion deficit and currently allocates $11.1 billion to “schooling.”

“[Princeton University’s Woodrow] Wilson School professor Richard Keevey said that schooling, to which the state budget currently allocates $11.1 billion, represents the ‘largest single component of the budget,’” she reported on March 22.

The proposed budget would “reduc[e] funding for public education by $820 million and aid for colleges and universities by $175 million, among other cuts,” Brean writes.

Claire Heininger reports for the The Star-Ledger on April 6 that Governor Christie recently extended the deadline for a deal in which school districts would freeze employer wages in exchange for increased state aid. “Christie said 115 of the state’s approximately 600 districts have implemented some form of wage freeze for teachers, administrators, staff or some combination of those employees,” she writes. “Last week, when he announced the proposal, the governor initially gave districts until Monday—when they submitted school budgets to the state—to accomplish a freeze.”

“Today, he said districts and their local employee unions that agree to freeze salaries between now and when the state budget must be passed on June 30 would still get money back. School budgets go to local voters for approval on April 20.”

Heininger offered a series of videos regarding the ongoing New Jersey budget process and its impact on education funding.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.