When Ambassador Phil Murphy was sworn in as the 56th Governor of New Jersey on Jan. 16, it marked the end of the Christie Era. For the past eight years, the state’s top public official has used educators as a political punching bag, often flinging mud to distract from his many failures and always seeking to undermine the power of collective action. Now, as Gov. Phil Murphy takes the reins, a brighter future awaits educators.

But here’s the reality: our work begins now.

NJEA members worked very hard to elect Gov. Murphy. Now, we must work even harder to help his administration transform his ideas into action. As NJEA members, we must harness the momentum built during the “Members 4 Murphy” campaign. We cannot sit back and expect good legislation and carefully considered regulation to simply happen.

Murphy’s progressive agenda will surely endure political opposition when it challenges the entrenched interests in Trenton. Despite potential opposition, he is poised to make significant progress. NJEA members must work to counteract resistance to the positive legislative and regulatory changes championed by candidate Murphy now that he is Gov. Murphy.

The governor has already demonstrated that he meant what he said as a candidate.

NJEA members worked very hard to elect Gov. Murphy. Now, we must work even harder to help his administration transform his ideas into action.

Prior to his official first day, Murphy backed up his commitment to have stronger, more inclusive relationships with educators than his predecessor. First, he nominated life-long educator, Asbury Park Superintendent Dr. Lamont Repollet, as commissioner of education. Then he announced that he has asked Dr. Repollet, once confirmed, to begin the process of ending the administration of PARCC testing in New Jersey’s public schools.

Murphy has many policy goals that would bring positive change to New Jersey’s public schools. He wants to sign legislation to grant due-process rights to educational support professionals. He’s talked about creative ways to ensure the state fully funds the pension systems. He’s committed to work with all relevant stakeholders to take on the challenges posed by a school funding formula that’s been largely ignored for eight years. With the help of NJEA members, Murphy can realize these substantial changes for our schools.

Perhaps most important of all, Gov. Murphy has promised to treat educators with respect and dignity, even in the face of inevitable disagreement, and has already shown what that looks like in practice. Having a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation provides even more assurance that education policy will again start moving in the right direction.

Murphy wants to restore economic security and affordable health care for those who dedicate their lives to public service; educators are no exception. Educators and all public employees will be called on to stand shoulder to shoulder with our new governor to help move policies that will improve our lives and the lives of our students. Together, we will need to make phone calls, hold meetings and knock on doors.

Murphy will prove to be a champion for social, racial and economic justice. Throughout the campaign, he unapologetically shared with NJEA members his belief that labor unions such as NJEA must be the driving force for equity and justice. Just three hours after he took office—wasting no time in backing up his words with action—he signed his first executive order, which seeks to begin eliminating the pay gap between men and women employed by the state.

With the election of Gov. Murphy, educators can be assured that public schools will once again be supported and allowed to thrive. It is impossible to predict every challenge that lies ahead, but it is possible to stand together, ready to work with our governor to move his agenda—our agenda—forward.

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