Focus shifts to Senate, Ch. 78 relief

Wearing red and standing in solidarity, NJEA members filled the halls of the Statehouse on Thursday to lobby legislators and to watch two bills, both of which will provide Job Justice for Educational Support Professionals (ESPs) – the bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, paraprofessionals, food service workers, technology specialists, security, maintenance and everyone else who contribute to our students’ health, safety and education — pass through the New Jersey Assembly.

A-3395, which will prevent school boards from privatizing ESPs during an active collective bargaining agreement, passed the Assembly by a vote of 70-6.

A-3664, which will provide due process rights to ESPs, passed the Assembly by a vote of 75-5-1.

Today’s victory comes after months of member-driven organizing around both bills. NJEA members have been leading a campaign to Fix The Unfairness and provide Job Justice for the educators who have made New Jersey’s public schools some of the best in the nation.

“NJEA members did this,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan. “Our members earned this victory by committing to each other and committing to collective action. Since September NJEA members have been making phone calls, meeting with legislators and sharing their stories with their elected leaders. Today, I commend the Assembly members who voted for these bills and thank them for their commitment to ensuring that students in New Jersey’s public schools are welcomed each school day by the familiar faces of dedicated professionals who are fully committed to their education. The Assembly demonstrated its commitment to the future of public education, and now we call the Senate will do the same soon.”

Before the bills can go to Governor Murphy’s desk to be signed into law, they must be passed by the Senate. The two companion bills in the Senate, S-296 (anti-privatization) and S-3089 (due process), have not yet been posted in their respective committees.

“I am so proud of the hard work of my fellow NJEA members every day, and especially today” said NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller. “The step we took today is a win for our members, children in New Jersey’s public schools and the future of our profession. Now our focus shifts to the Senate. We are going to work with every senator who believes that educators who work with children deserve the respect of an active collective bargaining agreement and fair due process rights. At the end of the day, when these bills become laws, it’s our children who will have won justice.”

The member-led campaign to Fix The Unfairness is also focused on ensuring all educators have access to quality and affordable healthcare.  NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty was quick to point out that those issues cannot be separated.

“I am going to celebrate today, but get right back to work tomorrow because our Chapter 78 bill has not been heard in committee in either the Assembly or the Senate” said Beatty, referring to a bill that would tie the contributions that educators pay toward healthcare to their salaries instead of the cost of the premium. “These bills are about respect, and if our elected leaders respect educators, they will make sure that public school employees have relief from the crushing effects of Chapter 78. We’re on the verge of a teacher shortage here in New Jersey, and unless we can offer fair, competitive compensation to everyone who works in our public schools, we won’t be able to attract the educators our children need and deserve and maintain our status as best in the nation.”

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