Understanding NJEA PAC’s endorsement process

On Nov. 7—and sooner for those who choose early voting or vote by mail—New Jersey voters will elect 120 state legislators as well as hundreds of candidates for county and local office. 

Endorsing and electing candidates who support NJEA’s goals significantly increases the association’s ability to pass favorable legislation and stop destructive legislation. Recently, that favorable legislation has included a new law that expands sick leave to include the use of sick days to care for children and other loved ones. It also includes successful legislation to ensure just cause protections for educational support professionals (ESPs) and relief from the high costs of health insurance. Our PAC endorsement process also helped elect a governor who is fully funding the state’s pension systems after decades of underfunding.

The NJEA Political Action Committee (PAC) prides itself on having a clear, fair and democratic process leading up to the endorsement of a candidate. But how exactly does the PAC endorsement process work?

It begins with screening committees that evaluate candidates.

PAC screening committees are established for each legislative district. Each committee includes members of the NJEA PAC Operating Committee from their respective counties and the NJREA legislative county chairperson. Screening committees also include NJEA Government Relations Committee and Congressional Contact Committee members from counties involved, the county president, and NJEA Executive Committee members from the counties involved.

Prior to meeting candidates, the committee reviews completed NJEA questionnaires submitted by the candidates. If a candidate is an incumbent, their voting record is examined.

Each candidate screening session lasts up to an hour, allowing time for candidates to make a presentation and answer questions. Questions are based upon issues relevant to public education and advocacy for the people who work in public schools. They may also cover issues and concerns specific to the membership of the counties within the legislative districts involved.

Next, the NJEA PAC Operating Committee considers the screening committees’ recommendations.

The screening committee recommends endorsements to the NJEA PAC Operating Committee.

To make that recommendation, the screening committee discusses the merits of each candidate. The committee may recommend the endorsement of one candidate in a race, recommend no endorsement, or recommend a “your choice” option, which indicates that both candidates are in agreement with NJEA’s key goals and positions.

The 125-member NJEA PAC Operating Committee consists of NJEA’s officers, the NJEA Executive Committee, the county association presidents, the NJEA Government Relations Committee, the Congressional Contact Committee, the presidents of NJREA and NJEA Preservice, the NJREA legislative chairperson, and two NJREA regional legislative chairs. 

The NJEA PAC Operating Committee reviews the recommendations and votes to determine who will become NJEA PAC-endorsed candidates.

The outcome: Your interests as a public school employee are represented.

In the judgement of your fellow NJEA members, who were representing your interests as a public school employee, the candidates they ultimately endorsed deserve the votes of NJEA members. That distinction—your interests as a public school employee—is important. 

The members of the NJEA PAC Operating Committee, as well as the members of each county’s PAC screening committees, are school nurses, librarians, bus drivers, custodians, classroom teachers, higher education faculty, school social workers, paraprofessionals, retirees—in short, they come from every NJEA membership category. 

Those members represent a wide range of political interests, are members of different political parties, and even hold opposing viewpoints on some of the most controversial issues of our time. Despite that, the issues that unite them for an NJEA PAC endorsement are school funding, collective bargaining, racial and social justice, standardized testing, pensions, health benefits, the health and safety of students and staff, and the myriad other issues that matter to public school employees like you.