The New Jersey Education Association was founded in 1853 by a group of educators with a desire to improve public education and elevate the teaching profession. According to Association records, the primary interest of NJEA in the early years was related to teacher preparation, professional development, and instruction.
That year, the New Jersey State Teachers Association, now NJEA, held its first convention in New Brunswick’s Bayard School.
By the end of the century, the Association expanded its actions to include retirement, tenure, minimum salary, and the legal defense of teachers. The Association secured a teacher-supported retirement fund administered by the State. In 1909, the first tenure bill was enacted, and by 1919 a minimum salary law was in place.
The Association took a leading role in the creation of normal schools for teacher preparation, the advancement of physical education, special facilities for disabled children, and increased financial support of education.
In the 1930s, the Association fended off legislative attempts to carve up public education as a result of the Great Depression.
By 1946, NJEA became involved in fieldwork and public relations. From the 1940s to the 1960s NJEA secured laws granting a variety of fringe benefits for members, establishing county colleges, and for the first time in the State’s history, granting negotiating rights to public employees.
For most of its history, NJEA was composed of teaching staff members. In the 1960s, NJEA amended its constitution to include all public school employees. In 1966, NJEA created regional field offices and increased staff to better serve its members.
Through the last part of the century, NJEA continued to improve public education by lobbying for pro-education legislation at the state and federal levels. Members’ rights advances include the collective bargaining bill, the creation of the Public Employee Relations Commission, and increased pension benefits.
In the 21st century, NJEA continues to serve members’ professional and personal needs by providing comprehensive services. Supporting and strengthening public education, offering opportunities for professional growth, protecting members’ rights, and working for improved member recognition and compensation are all part of NJEA’s commitment to great public schools.