NJEA President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty released this statement regarding the package of bills proposed today by Senate President Steve Sweeney:
“We are reviewing today’s proposed legislation. At a first look, too many of these proposals continue to target already-struggling educators for further cuts and greater economic instability. As with any legislation, we will support proposals that promise a better, fairer future for students, educators and the communities we serve. We will vigorously oppose proposals that attack our members’ economic security or threaten the quality of our public schools.
“New Jersey’s educators have already been pushed beyond the breaking point, with unsustainable health care costs and a pension that costs much more and delivers much less than what was promised to many of us when we entered this profession. As a result of the Ch. 78 law passed in 2011, many educators are bringing home less pay year after year. That is unfair and unsustainable. Proposals that continue or exacerbate that terrible trend will be opposed. Proposals to further raise costs or slash benefits will irreparably harm our profession and our schools, and NJEA members will join as one to fight them.
“We stand by what we said when these concepts were first released nearly a year ago. NJEA members will continue to work with legislators and the Murphy administration to tackle the problem of skyrocketing healthcare costs, fueled by insurance and pharmaceutical companies, that hurt every New Jersey resident. We will continue to advocate for fiscally responsible pension funding practices that reduce the state’s long-term liabilities while meeting its obligation to public employees. And we will continue to provide the world-class education that New Jersey families expect and New Jersey students deserve. But we refuse to be scapegoated for the state’s failure to meet its fiscal obligations, and we refuse to be driven further and further behind economically to pay for New Jersey’s legacy of fiscal irresponsibility.
“It is time for New Jersey to prioritize the interests of middle class families over millionaires. It’s time to decide whether our state is going to invest in the working families who make this state a great place to live, or whether it will divert resources to feed the insatiable appetites of the wealthiest few. The notion that millionaires must be coddled while more is extracted from the pockets of public employees is unjust, offensive and a line in the sand for our members.
“We have demonstrated time and time again that when educators and lawmakers come together to seek solutions, we can achieve win-win solutions. If that is the approach that legislators choose, we are confident that it will succeed. If they choose a slash-and-burn approach that targets public employees to unilaterally fix the problems that the Legislature has created over many years, we are confident that the 200,000 members of NJEA are ready, willing and organized to fight for the future of our profession.”