A week from today is the first day of the NJEA’s two-day Teacher Convention in Atlantic City, known to parents as “the four-day weekend that renders November a scholastic-free month, especially when you add on Thanksgiving recess and, often, half-days due to parent-teacher conferences.”

But the wrath of parents falls unfairly on NJEA’s shoulders. That weight rests on our legislators, whom in their wisdom approved State Statute 18A-31-2:
18A:31-2. Attendance at conventions of New Jersey Education Association
Whenever any full-time teaching staff member of any board of education of any local school district or regional school district or of a county vocational school or any secretary, or office clerk applies to the board of education by which he is employed for permission to attend the annual convention of the New Jersey Education Association, such permission shall be granted for a period of not more than two days in any one year and he shall receive his whole salary for the days of actual attendance upon the sessions of such convention upon filing with the secretary of the board a certificate of such attendance signed by the executive secretary of the association.
Here’s where NJEA gets a wee bit sneaky. Just about every state teacher association in the country has an annual convention, but holds it either on the weekend or over the summer. (Four states hold it during the school year [Vermont, Minnesota, Utah, and Wisconsin]; so does Maryland, but it’s over a Friday-Saturday, so kids miss only one school day.)

And, although the statute states that teachers can “apply” for permission (that must be granted) and submit proof of attendance, all traditional public schools just shut down anyway.

Given NJEA’s rotten public relations week (almost 300,000 hits on the video), what better way to gain some goodwill than to give those two days back to the kids? Starting next year, move the annual convention to the summer or a weekend, like the vast majority of other states in the U.S. Reinstate those two days as regular school days, a veritable gift of instructional time. If that’s too hard a stretch, schedule the convention as a Friday-Saturday event instead of Thursday-Friday so that the kids reap one day more.

New Jersey School Boards Association Annual Workshop set the example this year, down-sizing and economizing in Somerset instead of Atlantic City. Perfect? No. Responsive to the times? Yes. It’s all about the kids, right? Give them back the days.