My kneejerk reaction to today's headline, "N.J. teachers hope federal funds restore raises" was this:
You gotta be kidding. There those teachers unions go again, looking for raises rather than restoring lost jobs. Tsk tsk.
But thinking about it, I've got a lot of sympathy for those teachers. In so many districts - most of them, actually - teachers watched the pink slips go out but refused to budge on concessions. That, despite the fact that police, firefighters and all sorts of other public employees were making huge concessions to lessen layoffs.
A handful of local teachers unions did voluntarily freeze their salaries, saving jobs. And now, federal stimulus funds may restore some jobs that were lost in districts where teachers refused to give an inch.
I'm not sure of the answer. But it would be a shame to see the most truculent local unions rewarded, while those that were willing to compromise for the greater good get the short end of the stick.
It's unclear now whether any of the money could be used to restore raises, and how many jobs could actually be restored for the current school year that begins in a few weeks. But one thing is pretty certain: All this stimulus money may just move the crisis to next year, since the state's fiscal picture isn't likely to improve.