Paterson teachers rally for new contract, threaten to strike amid national teacher shortage

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) — Teachers in Paterson, New Jersey who have been without a contract since June took to the streets to protest Wednesday night.

After six months without a contract, teachers in Paterson are threatening to strike if the district doesn’t agree to terms soon.

The issue is an old one. Kimberly Johnson has been teaching in Paterson for 25 years.

“When I first started working, I needed a part-time job to help subsidize my salary, 25 years later prices have gone up, I still need a part-time job to subsidize my salary,” she said.

A nationwide teachers shortage has put those still in the classroom in a strong bargaining position. The superintendent knows that and has made some important changes.

“When you have a teacher shortage, you can go anywhere and name your price, and that’s what’s been happening, we have now put a pre-employment agreement together and we were able to hire 150 teachers in September, so we are becoming just as competitive as other places,” Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer said.

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But that leaves existing teachers working under an old contract, so teachers continue to leave, which means each classroom is getting more crowded.

“The class sizes expand, it restricts the time that the staff can give to the students individually and the students are overwhelmed because they don’t have access to you,” teacher Todd Pipkin said.

Many are leaving Paterson, but so many more want to stay.

“We do it because we love our kids, we do it because we love Paterson, I don’t want to leave Paterson, I’ve been born and raised in Paterson, I want to stay here and work here,” teacher Rhonda Johnson said.

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