An update to the blog, posted below earlier today:
The Press just reported that the teachers union has withdrawn any objections to Whelan's offer. Whelan will work three-and-a-half days a week and the swim program will be saved - making it a little less likely the kind of tragedy that happened in Louisiana will happen in Atlantic City.
Six teenagers drowned in a Louisiana river this week because they didn't know how to swim.
The tragedy has drawn widespread attention to the need for swimming instruction, and to the fact that a disproportionate number of black children do not learn to swim. And I was reminded of the fact that state Sen. James Whelan, D-Atlantic - a teacher who runs Atlantic City's swimming program - has offered to reduce his salary by $30,000 and work three and a half days a week to save the swim program from budget cuts.
He said he's fortunate - drawing both a $49,000 salary as a legislator and a $90,000 teachers' salary - to be in a position to make the offer.
The local union may be the stumbling block. Union leader Marcia Genova said she is concerned about setting a precedent.
And, of course, Whelan's offer has drawn the predictable Republican reaction - contending Whelan is a double-dipper whose absence on legislative days forces the district to hire a substitute.
I've known Jim Whelan for 25 years. Say what you want about him, but this much is clear: He cares very much about the kids and about the swimming program. (And for heaven's sake, right or wrong, how many lawmakers are employed as public workers elsewhere - Republican and Democrat? How many offer to give back $30,000?)
But forget the politics and forget the union rules. Just accept Whelan's offer, make this happen and save the program.
I can think of at least six reasons why.