NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, issued this statement on Gov. Murphy’s State of the State address this afternoon:

“Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State address today demonstrated once again that he understands the challenges New Jersey faces and knows what it will take to overcome them. Our public schools, which are the best in the nation, will be at the center of our state’s recovery from this pandemic. Educators and families alike should be encouraged by his promise today that New Jersey’s students will have both the academic and social-emotional support they need to rebound and thrive. It is going to take sustained commitment to ensure that New Jersey’s students emerge from this challenging time healthy, strong and successful. We are committed to working with the Murphy administration and other education stakeholders to achieve that and to keep our schools the best in the nation.

“We have already seen his administration working hard to close the digital divide, and we have seen him keep his promise to fund schools even under extraordinarily challenging circumstances. We have seen him elevate early childhood education. We have seen him elevate the importance of the educational support professionals who are so vital to our schools’ success. We have seen him keep New Jersey’s pension promise to retired educators. We have seen him provide health care cost relief to all educators and taxpayers. His commitment to our students, our schools and to New Jersey’s educators is sincere, and for three years he’s backed it up with action and investment.

“We also appreciate his focus on providing better access to higher education for New Jersey residents who need that more than ever in this economic climate. Making community college tuition-free for many families is an important step forward, and one that the governor should build on as an investment in New Jersey’s recovery and prosperity.

“Yesterday’s executive order waiving high school exit exams and eliminating student growth objectives as an element in evaluation for the current school year further demonstrate that he understands the extraordinary nature of the challenges facing our schools. That flexibility, in the face of overwhelming stress and uncertainty, demonstrates that his stated commitment to the educational, social, and emotional needs of our entire education community is sincere. Additionally, by temporarily adjusting the regulations around substitute educators, districts have greater flexibility to address the health and safety concerns of educators and better protect the whole school community during this pandemic.

“We also applaud Gov. Murphy’s bold commitment to racial, social and economic justice throughout his agenda. Our schools must be places where all students feel welcome, all students are supported and all students can succeed. They must be places where all educators and all community members have a voice. That requires a constant focus on justice of all kinds, and it requires concrete anti-racist practices. We share the governor’s determination to identify and root out the structural barriers and systemic racism that have long impeded so many students and educators of color.

“We look forward to working with Gov. Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education to navigate the challenges of the coming months. With his leadership, the support of the Legislature and the involvement of all stakeholders, this year will not be a setback for our schools but an opportunity for them to learn, grow, reimagine and emerge even stronger and more successful.”

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