Teachers contract hits a road block in Jersey City

March 19, 2010 5:42:26 AM PDT
A bitter, acrimonious confrontation between school board officials and teachers demanding pay hikes in Jersey City. The teachers they they had a deal, only to learn they did not.

Thursday night's public school board meeting in a basketball gym in Jersey City, felt more like March Madness complete with passionate screaming, stomping, booing and heckling.

But the people making the noise were teachers, not students.

They want the re-negotiated union contract that has been in place since December, which includes four percent raises over the next four years.

The contract had already been scheduled for a vote on Thursday before Governor Christie announced state funding to education.

"Today we come before the board to ask the board to approve what its committee has already approved," Phil Feintuck, attorney for the Jersey City Teachers Association said, and the crowd erupted in applause.

Most of the hostility was directed at former mayor and school board member Gerald McCann who has been critical of teachers.

"If you cannot read what's in today's paper, then our students are in a lot more trouble than we thought," McCann said. .

He wanted to table the motion, but the board voted anyway.

The contract was not put on hold and the board voted.

"This contract was negotiated and mediated. Yes," Dr. Donnelly, Jersey City School Board member, said.

But teachers did not get the vote they had been pushing for all night.

"I thought they would have had a little more spine," Susan Murphy said.

The board voted 4-4 and one abstention, which means the process must begin from scratch.

The union says they have 30 days to renegotiate, leaving teachers, parents and students with no clear view of what might happen next.