hot-topic right[Update: This article replaces an earlier version, which cited contract terms that Superintendent Laura Morana says were reported incorrectly in both the Asbury Park Press and the Star-Ledger.]

Gov. Chris Christie has offered pointed praise for a pact, finalized late last week, under which Red Bank teachers agreed to a three-year wage freeze.

Christie’s called out the deal was in an opinion piece under his byline in the Star-Ledger Sunday. That followed Thursday night’s ratification by both the teachers’ union and the Red Bank Board of Ed of a contract that will bump each of the district’s 130 teachers up to the next pay grade in two of the three years, Superintendent Laura Morana tells redbankgreen.

Under a pre-existing salary guide, teachers earn more based on their years of experience. The new contract, says Morana, calls for blanket step-ups for all teachers in the first and third years of the deal, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

Eight or ten teachers already at the top of the salary guide will get 2.5-percent pay increases in the first and third years, Morana says.

Morana says the pact will add $190,000 in labor costs in each of those years. But because salaries will otherwise remain frozen at the 2009-10 level throughout the term of the contract, the deal “translates into significant savings” compared to past contracts that called for across-the-board salary increases.

Christie cited the deal in an op-ed in the Sledger, in which he urged voters to support local school budgets that include a “reasonable, shared sacrifice — a one year freeze on salaries and a small contribution to health insurance costs.”

From the op-ed:

In the face of these difficulties, we are seeing action take place across the state. Districts and education associations are coming together. Just this past week, the Red Bank Education Association ratified a contract that froze salaries for three years. The Superintendent of the Schools, Laura Morana, acknowledge the collaborative relationship between the district and the association before going on to say, “They recognize these are challenging times and wanted to do what’s in the best interest of the kids.”

Superintendent Morana’s words represent the shared sacrifice of many others across New Jersey. It is the reason why I am proposing to provide additional state aid to school districts that negotiate a salary freeze to the amount equivalent to both the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes that would have otherwise been paid on the foregone salary increase.