Since the news broke that New Jersey will receive nearly $270 million in federal money to spend on saving teaching jobs, many of the state's unemployed educators are waiting to hear whether they will be rehired.
Under the bill passed by Congress, the money must go toward rehiring laid-off teachers or to ensure that more will not be laid off before the school year begins.
According to estimates, the money is enough to cover every laid-off teacher in New Jersey, but that doesn't mean the state has to rehire them.
The Christie administration said that it was still looking into how to distribute the money and that it was talking to federal officials about the effect the onetime infusion of money would have on schools.
Christie will apply for the jobs money to keep control of it, spokesman Michael Drewniak told businessweek.com.
The president's Council of Economic Advisers estimates 3,900 teaching jobs in New Jersey will be saved by the money.
According to the New Jersey Education Association, about 3,000 teachers were laid off as a result of the $819 million Christie slashed in education money for the 2011 budget year, which began July 1. An additional 7,000 teachers retired, about twice as many as usual in a year, the NJEA said.
NorthJersey.com reports that New Jersey teachers who negotiated contracts since January received an average raise of slightly over 2 percent, the lowest rate in more than 30 years, the state School Board Association said today.
Contracts settled between April and June included even smaller raises -- an average of almost 1.6 percent -- after Gov. Christie urged teachers to open their contracts and accept pay freezes to save colleagues' jobs and taxpayers' money.
The association said the raises were the lowest in the more than 30 years it has been keeping records. By comparison, teachers received an average raise of 4.31 percent in the 2009-10 school year.
NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer told philly.com, "We don't think the governor has the authority to tell districts how to use the money other than to tell them to hire people for positions already lost. Even if it's a short-term infusion, it's good news."
It's very late in the year to be hiring teachers when classes are already established," said Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District assistant superintendent Cheryl Dyer. "And we really can't prepare for anything until we know there's money coming to our district." Bridgewater cut 65 positions.
Some South Jersey superintendents expressed reluctance to hire with the onetime money. With the state's lower tax-levy cap, rising costs, and the ailing economy, next year also is expected to be a tough one for districts.
According to a story in the Asbury Park Press, in Paterson, 775 teachers out of nearly 6,000 were initially laid off, but 400 have already been called back to work. Superintendent Donnie Evans said those 400 include all tenured teachers certified in traditional academic areas. He hopes the new money will allow the district to recall art and music teachers as well as librarians.