DA approves deep investment in member organizing campaign

The NJEA Delegate Assembly (DA), the association’s policy-making body met on Jan. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Princeton. The DA meets five times a year, typically in September, November, January, March and May. The agenda is published in advance of the meeting for all members at njea.org/da. Minutes of the proceedings are also published there. What follows is a summary of the meeting. Detailed minutes are published in the NJEA Review when they become available.

With continued attacks from the state Legislature on members’ hard-earned pensions and benefits as well as ongoing anti-public education policy at the national level under U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, DA members approved a $25 million dollar budget transfer into NJEA’s strategic organizing and organizational projects accounts. With the infusion of funds, NJEA will be better positioned to launch an extraordinary level of member organizing. The funding will also provide resources for external coalition building with other unions and stakeholder groups and advertising.

Officer reports

NJEA President Marie Blistan began her report speaking about Micah Tennant, a 10-year-old African American child who died from gunshot wounds he suffered while watching a high school football game in Pleasantville in November. She also spoke about the victims of the Dec. 10 shooting in Jersey City at a kosher supermarket and a nearby cemetery that claimed the lives of store owner Mindy Ferencz, employee Douglas Michael Rodriguez, customer Moshe Deutsch, and Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals. Blistan asked for a moment of silence in their memory, urging delegates and observers to “think individual and collectively as a body about what we can do to make this world and better place for our children and grandchildren.”

In addition to other state and federal issues, Blistan discussed the status of legislation that would enact due-process rights and protection from subcontracting for educational support professionals (ESPs) and Ch. 78 relief for all members as the 2018-19 legislative session was coming to an end on Jan. 13 and a new legislative session beginning on Jan. 14.

NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller updated members on proposed testing regulations under consideration by the New Jersey State Board of Education. The issues at play can be reviewed at njea.org/more-testing-does-not-equal-higher-standards.

NJEA members address delegates

A portion of every DA meeting is set aside for NJEA members who are not delegates to address DA members. A record total of 26 members addressed the DA at this meeting.

Nine members raised concerns about NJEA’s support for legislation that would have removed the religious objection to mandatory vaccinations from existing law, a move recently taken in the state of New York in response to a series of measles outbreaks affecting hundreds of students in New York City and Rockland County. Five NJEA members who are school nurses spoke in favor NJEA’s support of the legislation and the value of compliance to vaccination requirements.

Seven members addressed delegates urging them to support the divestment of public employee pension funds from fossil fuel companies. Two members discussed political endorsements at the local and county association level and two members raised concerns over provisions Ch. 78 relief legislation.

Audit presented

NJEA’s audit is presented annually at the January DA meeting. The audit was conducted by certified public accountants at Novak Francella, which found NJEA’s accounts to be in order.

NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty discussed the association’s careful stewardship of its revenues and expenditures in terms of its value to NJEA members

The audit is published in the April edition of the NJEA Review.

Other business

Delegates adopted the report of the NJEA PAC Operating Committee and approved a recommendation from the NJEA Affiliations Committee, leading to the affiliation of the Northern Valley Teachers Assistants Association, the East Orange Community Charter Education Association, the Academy Urban Leadership Education Association, and the North Brunswick Buildings/Grounds Managers Association.

Delegates also considered two New Business Items (NBI).

NBI #1, which was proposed by Esther Fletcher of Bergen County moved that NJEA make a statement denouncing acts of violence against people of diverse religious beliefs, especially in light of the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes. The NBI further directed the NJEA Equity Alliance to explore ways to raise awareness of acts of violence against individuals and groups based on their religion. The motion carried. The resulting statement can be found at njea.org and on Page 14 of this edition of the NJEA Review.

NBI #2, which was proposed by Melissa Tomlinson of Atlantic County called for NJEA to create a letter urge the N.J. State Investment Council to take action to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies in order to safeguard and protect NJEA member financial interests and maximize pension growth. Blistan ruled the NBI out-of-order because is conflicted with current policy on the methods by which pension investments are determined. New language was drafted and adopted to refer the concern for divestment of fossil fuel investments to the Pension Policy Committee for review. The committee report back to the D.A. at its March 2020 meeting.

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