Your kids are in trouble.

Education can find ways to overcome a lot of things. Budget cuts. Overcrowding. (Looking at you, Hillsborough.) State mandates. But the one thing that is going to hurt your kids the most is if no one wants to take the job to teach them. And it's happening in New Jersey.

A story out of Burlington County is a perfect example of why.

Bryanna Mostak is a special education teacher in the Bordentown Regional School District. She says for months she complained to the administration that there were no aides in her elementary school classroom. As the parent of two children with autism, I'm very familiar with the law regarding special education.

Mostak said aides were required in accordance with students' IEPs (individualized education plan) and if it's in the IEP it is required by law. If a public school cannot meet the needs set forth in a student's IEP they can eventually be sent out of district to private schools at the expense of the public school district.

Mostak says not only did her ongoing understaffing complaints fall on deaf ears, the school, she says, retaliated against the whistleblower in various ways. She is now suing the district and you can read more on that here.

Not surprisingly the superintendent wouldn't give reporters a comment.

Why do I tend to believe Mostak? Because I know for a fact this happens in a number of districts. IEPs are violated all the time. Special education teachers are too often left alone in classrooms with few or no aides with children who have behavioral classifications such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder and can become violent. In short, it tracks with the reality I've seen.

There is a serious teacher shortage happening in New Jersey and it's not only because of situations like this. Even before the pandemic hit, interest in teaching was in steep decline. Administrators are too often at odds with their own teaching staff. Many are forcing them to rigidly adhere to teaching a pre-determined curriculum in a certain manner and in so doing have killed the very art of teaching.

Many teachers in our state are handed what amounts to a script to stick to in front of their students. If the kids aren't getting the point by this automaton scripted delivery, many schools will not allow teachers to figure out on their own how to reach the kids, won't allow teachers to deviate, to actually connect with them on their level and teach.

Teacher reading out to students in the library
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I've personally known many teachers and the stories are always the same. Education today is homogenized, crafted by administrators who had little if any actual classroom experience or were ineffective if they did. It's left creative teaching behind as a relic.

Oh, here's another idiotic move some districts are mandating. Language Arts teachers are often not allowed to assign reading a full book anymore. It's "too much" for children. Instead of eighth graders reading S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders" and falling in love with the characters and dying to see where it's all going, teachers are only allowed to assign excerpts to be read. Yes, five pages in the middle of a book out of context, leaving reading passionless. I kid you not. This is happening.

Then came the pandemic with not only the problems of failed virtual learning but also the politicization of masking and vaccines. Suddenly teachers were regarded by some parents as part of the "control" even if the teachers agreed with these parents in concept. Then came mandates for New Jersey schools regarding teaching LGBTQ issues and more of education was politicized.

In an already difficult job with good benefits but low pay, suddenly teachers were being regarded more and more by parents as the enemy. It was bad enough that too many administrators didn't have their teachers' backs. When parents turn away from teachers too there's little left in this career for them.

One of the few good things about New Jersey has been the quality of public education. Among states, New Jersey has ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd for a long time. Which is outstanding. If no one turns this teacher shortage around by respecting the profession once again expect your kid to be less then what they could be. Maybe a Mississippi education is what some of you want. Not me.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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