Even before NEA President Lily Eskelsen García gaveled open the 2020 National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA) in a virtual space, New Jersey showed up on the devices of every delegate in the nation as NJEA’s commercial about Jersey City Education Association member Martha Garcia showing how she has been teaching art to students from home in the midst of the pandemic.
“NEA virtual convention with NJEA’s commercial!” NJEA President Marie Blistan enthusiastically posted to her Facebook page. “JERSEY STRONG and #RedforED. NJEA, I’m so very proud of all that you do, and all that we do as a union!”
New Jersey again received a shout-out when it was listed by Jefferey Byrd, chair if the NEA Credentials Committee, among the states to achieve minority representation goals.
More than 40 years ago, the NEA RA passed NEA Bylaw 3.1(g), which seeks to help state associations to send a diverse delegation to the annual convention. The goal is to send a delegation with a percentage of ethnic-minority delegates at least equal to the percentage of ethnic-minorities in the state’s total population.
According the U.S. census, 45.4% New Jersey residents identify themselves as a person of color. In recent years, NJEA members have made a conscious effort to send a delegation to the RA that looks like New Jersey. As a result, NJEA has in the last several years consistently met its 3.1(g) goal. This year that effort was energized by the NJEA Members of Color initiative, through which NJEA staff and members explained the path to becoming a delegate to new and more diverse audiences.
NJEA seeks to ensure that the participation of members of color in the association is much more than achieving a percentage by infusing the goals of racial, social, economic and education justice throughout the association. As one part of that effort, all members are encouraged to join NJEA’s R.E.A.L. movement. R.E.A.L. stands for racial equity, racial affirmation, and racial literacy. Visit www.njea.org/realmovement to learn more. Members of color are further encouraged to join the Members of Color social media page by searching “NJEA MOC” on Facebook.
Listen again to Stacy Abrams’ and Eskelsen-García’s speeches to the RA
Did Lily Eskelsen-García use a turn of phrase and cover a topic that you’d like to check out a second time? Were you moved by the stories and a call-to-action from Stacy Abrams?
Good news! NEA has posted videos of their speeches.
You can watch Eskelsen-García’s speech at https://youtu.be/JUaEQXGGvsI.
You can watch Abrams at https://youtu.be/fNu3PMVgDd4.
NEA Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss presented the NEA Proposed Strategic Plan and Budget as the last item of business for the video portion of Day One of the NEA RA. The budget can be viewed at https://ra.nea.org/delegate-resources.
The delegation then moved to a conference call to facilitate debate and questions about the budget among the over 7,000 delegates.
Among the dozens of callers was NJEA member Patricia Jones, an administrative assistant in the Robbinsville School District, who is the legislative chair and building rep for the Robbinsville Education Association. Jones also serves on the NJEA Elections Committee.
Jones expressed her concern for funding to support educational support professionals (ESPs) who may be furloughed or laid off because schools are required to again close their buildings because of COVID-19.
“Is there any funding or resources through this budget to help them,” Jones asked.
Princess Moss explained that there is $5.5 million in the budget available to all members and that they may work through their local or state association to apply for support.
Later in the call, Newark Teachers Association Vice President Yanique Leveque called in to note that the NEA budget, because of COVID-19, reflects the same level of expenditures as last year. Leveque asked why dues were increasing if the budget was the same. NEA dues for full-time certificated staff are increasing $4 per year. For ESP, the dues are increasing $2 per year.
Eskelsen-García explained that dues are calculated through a formula found the bylaws. Bylaws can only be amended by delegates to the NEA RA. Amendments are proposed at one NEA RA and considered in the subsequent year’s NEA RA.
Cheryle Haines, a teacher building rep for the Long Branch School Employees Association, noted that the proposed budget named various social justice organizations with which NEA would partner.
“How were those organizations vetted for us to be supporting them?” Haines asked.
Eskelsen-García called in NEA Chief Financial Officer Michael Mcpherson to explain that not only does NEA look at the financial stability of any organizations with which it partners, but also examines whether the potential partners are pro-public education. He called on NEA members to let NEA know if they feel that a particular partner may need further examination.
Eskelsen-García explained that when NEA looks at its goals, if it finds a financially stable partner that is in line with NEA principles, rather than duplicate efforts, they join their efforts. She reiterated, however, that the vetting process is thorough and that it is not easy to become an NEA partner.
“We’re pretty picky about who we choose,” Eskelsen-García said.
Kathy Rodgers, a teacher and member of the Paterson Education Association, asked if the NEA budget includes funding for racial justice reform, particularly with African Americans as the group on which injustice is having the greatest impact.
Eskelsen-García said that throughout NEA’s budget, $26,652,793 goes toward racial justice work. She noted that NEA Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss would be posting a report identifying those expenditures in the budget. Those budget expenditures are now posted on the NEA RA website and can be found here or by visiting https://ra.nea.org/delegate-resources/ and scrolling down to “Racial and Social Justice Work throughout the 2020-2021 Strategic Plan & Budget.