Lots of press on NJEA’s bill for lobbying last year: $6.8 million, far more than any other lobbying group in NJ. At about 200,000 members who pay an average of $730 in annual dues, that’s about 5% of each teacher’s contribution. Pennies in the grand scheme of things. And yet...here's NJEA Spokesman Steve Wollmer sounding a tad defensive in the Star-Ledger: "We spent that money. We felt we had to. The governor was putting out a lot of what we feel was misinformation on education and our members demanded we set the record straight"
and in NJ Spotlight: "It was unprecedented, but so is the severity of the attacks by this governor. Our membership insisted on it, and our leadership did, too."
and in the Asbury Park Press, "It's like a fight between two heavyweights; you land some punches, and everyone gets hurt. Our And we acknowledge that numbers for NJEA are down. But that's not going to stop us from telling the truth."
and in the Gloucester County Times: "We spent that money. We felt we had to. The governor was putting out a lot of what we feel was misinformation on education and our members demanded we set the record straight."
So, was the $6.8 million expenditure on negative ads against Chris Christie a successful venture that enabled the front office to "tell the truth" and "set the record straight?" How'd that work for your members? Was there a better use of $7 million dollars, like putting together a substantive tenure reform proposal that amounted to more than a sneer and outlandish suggestions to expand the power of collective bargaining? (That proposal was silly then; it's sillier now.)
NJEA has an opportunity to set an example for national public employee unions. This is not Wisconsin or Indiana or Ohio, where collective bargaining itself is under attack. This is New Jersey, where certain benefits -- defined pension contributions, unassailable seniority rights during lay-offs, uninterrupted and unconditional annual bumps up on a salary guide -- are on the table. NJEA's members might be better served by more thoughtful consideration to creative compromises and a little less bombastic bluster.