John M. Abeigon
By TED COHEN/Editor
The president of the Newark Teachers Union came out swinging against critics of his fledgling fund-raising campaign, saying the organization needs extra cash to “wage a successful campaign against the war on teachers.”
“There’s no shame in fighting fire with fire,” John M. Abeigon said in an exclusive interview with this blog. “The war on teachers is being funded with taxpayer dollars. Our only source of income is union dues from members. We don’t receive any taxpayer funding.”
Abeigon has come under fire from some critics who say the union should have plenty of money to do its work defending teachers with their contributed dues and shouldn’t have to create a special defense fund to bring in more dollars.
In a blistering headline blasting Abeigon‘s money-raising campaign, http://njleftbehind.blogspot.com said the idea for the fund came from “the Department of Chutzpuh.”
An editorial from EAIonline.com‘s Mike Antonucci said:
“The union claims this unique project is necessary because ‘we don’t have access to the same funding sources as those who want to destroy our public schools.’
“That might be literally true, but NTU has an annual budget of about $3.4 million and is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, a parent organization whose budget is $188 million. The idea that it requires a GoFundMe campaign for $100,000 is laughable.”
But Abeigon is undeterred by his critics. He said the onslaught against senior teachers requires hiring lawyers, and that costs alot of money.
“School districts and the state are using so-called evaluation systems to retaliate against senior teachers to force them out the door,” Abeigon said. “They’ve been pushing tenure cases against our senior members, forcing litigation. Whether they’re being defended for evaluation or for tenure, defense attorneys cost money. Unlike the corporations that are funding the war on teachers, our pockets are not bottomless.”
He added: “We’re not begging. This is a vehicle to assist us bringing in money to fight the crimes being committed against working people, accumulating enough money so we can afford a respectful campaign against the war on teachers.”
Abeigon said that, contrary to what some critics have claimed, the nonprofit “ERC Foundation” he is setting up as a repository for the money isn’t ready yet for public donations. He contended the gofundme website was up only for testing. It was apparently taken down minutes after our interview:
“We only had it up briefly for testing purposes to get the kinks out,” Abeigon said before pulling down the website. “We haven’t launched it yet. If you try to donate, you can’t yet.”