Ok. I'll admit it. That headline isn't very accurate. But whenever a politician has the cajones to tell a government worker that the gravy train is over and they gotta suck it up in tough times like the rest of us in the private sector, this former newspaperman always thinks of my all-time favorite headline from the New York Daily News:
The sentiment of Chris Christie's response to a New Jersey public school teacher was pretty much the same, and it was heartening to hear. Christie, who is among the few politicians brave enough to take on his state's powerful teachers union, held a town hall meeting the other day. A public school teacher, Rita Wilson, rose to object to Christie's suggestion that tough economic times require teacher pay to be frozen for one year. Christie also insists that teachers contribute a measly 1.5 percent of their salary toward benefits — which were previously picked up entirely by the taxpayers of the Garden State. Ms. Wilson didn't take those suggestions well.
Wilson told the governor she was one of the educators he criticized as having a "me, first" attitude, but she's making a smaller salary than she would as a baby-sitter. [Editor's note: Does anyone really believe that? C'mon.]
"I'm not a rabble-rouser. I'm a simple English teacher," whose students perform well, Wilson said. "I work really hard."
Wilson said she used the babysitter example to make a point ... She and Christie then testily talked over each other for several questions and answers.
"You know what, you don't have to do it," Christie said.
"Teachers do it because they love it," Wilson told him.
The governor said in a time of "economic crisis," teachers and their main union — the powerful New Jersey Education Association — should be willing to take the freeze.
After the 90-minute session, Christie said he welcomed the "spirited exchange."
I welcome it, too. It's getting a little tiresome hearing sob stories from members of all-powerful teachers unions about their taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits — and it's even more grating from those in New Jersey. According to The New Jersey Star-Ledger, the average salary for public school teachers in the state is "$63,154, with more than half of the teachers earning from $40,000 to $60,000." Furthermore, the paper says, the public school teachers in New Jersey are the fourth highest-paid in the nation, behind only California, New York and Connecticut.
That is not a princely sum, but with benefits (and more tenure) it's quite comfortable — and higher than the median annual income in the United States. Good on Christie for informing Ms. Wilson of the reality of the situation in New Jersey: The state's broke. Belt-tightening is required. And if you don't like it, there is an enormous private sector out there in which one can take their chances.
Not exactly "Drop Dead" ... but, to my delight, close enough.