Drilling Into Why Spiller’s Conflict of Interest Matters – Pt 3. – Mandates Edition

On Monday, we wrote about Sean Spiller’s push to change the evaluation model to something a bit more NJEA friendly. We thought it was notable that – despite the consensus that had been built in Montclair around the evaluations being implemented – Spiller was making a push for a different policy that would more closely hew to his NJEA agenda.  We also previously noted his similar advocacy against technology investments. Here’s another talking point where Spiller’s efforts supposedly representing taxpayers on the BoSE seem to more closely mirror his union interests and rhetoric than real representation: “unfunded mandates.”

We don’t actually disagree with Spiller on this one on the policy, but we continue to think it’s a problem when he’s leveraged his role on the BoSE to push the same agenda as he does in his day-job as an NJEA official.

According to this report from Baristanet:

Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller won applause from the audience in the Montclair High School auditorium for proposing a resolution that “implored” the New Jersey Department of Education to adequately fund technology improvements and other unfunded mandates. Montclair Board of Education Chief Operating Officer Brian Fleischer drafted the resolution on the spot, and it passed unanimously.

We wanted to grab the full speech, so here it is— Spiller was asking Fleischer to draft a resolution for unfunded mandates during a BoSE meeting:

Spiller at 117:30 on 4/7/14: “Another one of the questions that I heard had to do with getting reimbursement from the state for these unfunded mandates. Deputy Russo is here and can speak to that. But I think overall, we’re all in agreement that the state should fund these mandates. The difficult part is, I am certain that we can pass a resolution here demanding that they do fund it, and they wouldn’t. That’s the problem, and I’m certainly open to a resolution of that nature.

So there’s Spiller, using his position on the BoSE, to push for an item that closely mirrors the advocacy work he’s been doing statewide with the NJEA.

Take, for example his testimony at the March 10th hearing of the Senate Budget Committee, where he speaks out against mandates “

“And while the governor says flat funding of state school aid will hold districts harmless, state PARCC testing mandates, rising insurance costs, and a strict budget cap will cause real, irreversible harm through the loss of essential programs, services, and opportunities for our students.”

Spiller’s comments on mandates read straight from the NJEA talking points, as when the NJEA complained about the expensive mandates New Jersey saw for updating teacher evaluations:

But the New Jersey Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — and other critics immediately complained that the increase was insufficient and would result in cuts to programs, staff and services at a time when schools face costly mandates for updating teacher evaluations and gearing up for new standardized tests.

Spiller gets a pretty substantial paycheck from the NJEA, and in turn, sits on the BoSE and approves the district’s budget.  It’s abundantly clear to us that having an officer representing the teachers union on the BoSE board represents a conflict of interest – and in that position he’s playing the agenda of his employer, the NJEA, ahead of the district and the students it serves. Whether he’s right on the specifics of it or not, the fact that we’re seeing him – on issue after issue – leverage his position to push the union agenda (in this case, securing a resolution that the NJEA can no doubt flog in Trenton) is a real problem.


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