NJEA President Barbara Keshishian issued the following statement today upon the release of the report of the State Commission of Investigation on paid union leave agreements:
“The report released today by the State Commission of Investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: the work release arrangements negotiated by certain local education associations with their boards of education are legal and commonplace.
“Despite what are sure to be attempts to politicize this report, we know that after months of intensive investigation, no evidence of any wrongdoing has emerged.
“The simple fact is this: negotiated release time for union members and leaders to attend to union business is a common and longstanding practice in both private and public sector employment. The arrangements negotiated by school employees in New Jersey were all done as part of the collective bargaining process or through other appropriate agreements, and presumably, the ensuing agreements were ratified by boards of education at public meetings. There is nothing secret about these negotiated agreements and nothing to hide.
“The purpose of such agreements is to promote labor harmony within districts by making it possible for problems to be addressed and resolved cooperatively rather than through adversarial processes. Providing negotiated release time for the purpose of conducting union business saves both time and money in districts and provides for a better school environment for all concerned. When issues can be resolved informally, rather than through costly and time-consuming grievance and arbitration procedures, taxpayers save money and everyone benefits.
“While districts and taxpayers benefit from the increased efficiency that results from these negotiated agreements, in many cases much or all of the cost of the release time is borne by the local association, not by the district.
“Agreements for release time, including full-time release in a limited number of instances, have been around for decades. They have always been a matter of public record. The fact that the release of this report comes in the midst of a sustained attack on public education and public sector unions in New Jersey is a remarkable coincidence.”