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Are New Jersey Teachers "Negligible?"

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When we first met Ed Potosnak last winter he really wanted to talk about how important education is in terms of keeping America a healthy and vibrant society. And, half a year of campaigning later, it's still what he seems to have the most passion for. And that makes sense: he's a chemistry teacher. Ed teaches high school science in his native New Jersey and he's challenging right-wing banking shill Leonard Lance in that state's 7th congressional district. Following Boehner's lead, Lance referred to New Jersey teachers as "negligible." That didn't sit well with candidate Potosnak-- nor with dedicated teacher Potosnak. And today he launched a new section on his website with videos of constituents reacting to Lance's shameful perspective.

A few weeks back, Lance tried to explain away his vote against the Education Jobs Fund Bill, which will fund the jobs of nearly 4,000 New Jersey teachers, by telling constituents that those jobs would have a "negligible" impact on their communities. Calling teaching jobs negligible? Maybe Leonard Lance can pass off certain jobs as negligible because he's a third generation Republican politician who has never held a real job in his life.

Potosnak, understandably outraged by Lance's callous characterization of teachers-- and by extension-- students and schools, hosted a press conference in Trenton this morning to announce the new section on his site. It features videos of constituents telling Lance that their job, their children's futures, their communities aren't negligible. It can be found by visiting EdPotosnak.com/myjob. Ed's also inviting people to submit their own videos for posting by sending them to myjob@edpotosnak.com/

It is pathetic in this hard-pressed economy for a member of Congress to call any job negligible, especially one on which our nation's future well-being rests. Sure, we know Republicans have nothing but disdain for teachers (look no further than Lance's good buddy, Governor Chris Christie, who has sliced $1.2 billion out of New Jersey schools in the last year). Still, calling teachers negligible ups the ante on GOP pigheadedness. Apparently Lance doesn't value the good job teachers have been doing in New Jersey for students. "New Jersey public schools," Ed told us, "are among the best in the nation in terms of the number of children enrolled in pre-school, 8th grade writing skills, advanced placement scores, high school graduation rates, and college preparedness... Students and parents in the other 49 states should be so lucky to have such 'negligible' educators. Once again, a Republican thinks nothing of disrespecting people who work hard in our communities."

While Lance runs around collecting "contributions" from Wall Street bankers and K Street lobbyists, Ed is adamant that America's economic stability depends on how seriously we respond to the challenges presented by an increasingly technological global economy. Lance is opposed to government taking a role in making life better, let alone more equitable, for citizens in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world. Ed's life experiences have enabled him to discover how targeted government policies can spur innovation, promote competition, and ensure that U.S. companies are able to remain internationally competitive.

More aggressive steps need to be taken to ensure America comes out on top; chief among them is improving our K-12 education and investing in the creation of new knowledge.

Keeping America competitive will require a significant commitment from our leaders in Washington and in our statehouses, to ensure we cultivate and support our innovators each step of the way from pre-kindergarten to post-doc and unleash their entrepreneurial spirit.

It is critical we inspire our students currently in our classrooms to become our future innovators, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Sadly, U.S. students rank twenty-first in science and twenty-fifth in math, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is not acceptable-- we must not settle for mediocre, we need to ensure America moves to the top of the list.

Too many students are being lost in our K-12 system, either dropping out or becoming disinterested in science and mathematics. Among those who pursue further studies in STEM we see an underrepresentation of women and minorities graduating college with STEM degrees. The next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers are lost right from under our noses.

Education is the key to our future. We need to address our ailing school system to ensure each child receives a world-class education, regardless of his or her zip code. Steps we can take right now to improve education include providing qualified teachers in every classroom, supporting struggling schools, rewarding schools for improving, holding schools accountable with measures aligned with what we value as a nation such as critical thinking and problem solving, and evaluating student growth over time.

Our current economic conditions offer a unique opportunity to produce new and innovative technologies, create jobs, and create new markets. Producing clean energy, enhancing our national security, improving healthcare, and protecting our environment provide vast opportunities to strengthen America's position as the leader in technological innovation and scientific discovery.

Making innovation a top priority for our nation will ensure America's economic stability. Strategic investments to spur innovation coupled with significant education reform are the key to making sure America can lead in the twenty-first-century global economy.

I entered teaching to help my students learn the tools they need to have a successful future. Today, I am running for Congress to deliver on that same commitment to ensure America's economic future is stable and prosperous.

Polling shows that this race is in a statistical dead heat... we need to help get Ed's message out to more voters. You can donate to his campaign here via ActBlue.