“You have a republic, if you can keep it!”
Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that quote reminds us that our democratic system of government requires citizen participation to survive. When we vote, when we communicate with the representatives we have elected, when we support them in advocating for our issues, and when we step up ourselves to lead, we are keeping our republic.
The same can be said of NJEA, which is structured as a representative democracy. Like our nation, our union’s strength depends on your engagement and participation.
The Delegate Assembly (DA), NJEA’s highest policy-making body, is in many ways modeled after the U.S. House of Representatives. As citizens in each of the 50 states elect a certain number of representatives to Congress based upon population, NJEA members from each county elect a certain number of delegates to the DA based on county membership. In addition to counties, four other constituencies have representation on the DA: higher education, NJREA, NJEA Preservice and administrative members who are not otherwise represented. Delegates serve two-year terms. Every April, elections are held to elect approximately half of the delegates. Your county association accepts nominations for its open DA seats in February.
Just as members of Congress are elected to represent you in Washington, DA members are elected to represent you and your interests as NJEA members.
Where Congress publishes the Congressional Record to report the official proceedings of the House and the Senate, NJEA publishes the book of Reports to the Delegate Assembly at njea.org/DA. Following their transcription, the minutes of each meeting are published in the NJEA Review and at njea.org.
Where members of Congress are expected to be accessible in their home districts, members of the DA are accessible to the members in their respective counties. They deliver reports concerning DA actions to their county representative councils. They also receive feedback and ideas to bring back to the DA. DA members have a dedicated NJEA email address (see below), and they want to hear from you.
Of course, the DA is not the only structure within NJEA where members are elected by their fellow members to carry out the work of our union. NJEA’s Executive Committee, which includes the president, vice president and secretary-treasurer, as well as 27 other members representing counties and other constituent groups, is charged with executing the policies approved by the DA.
Additionally, more than 50 statewide committees, with charges covering a wide range of issues, meet throughout the year. You can also find them and their members at njea.org. You may find that speaking with a committee member will help you think through an idea that you have. Committee members do not necessarily have an email address on NJEA’s server, however, you can reach the committee through the listed NJEA staff contact.
Finally, similar structures exist at the county and local levels, ensuring that every NJEA member has many colleagues representing her or his interests throughout our large and democratic organization.
Remember, when you vote for your representatives to the DA and other association offices, when you communicate with the representatives you have elected, when you support them in advocating for issues that matter to you, when you engage in that advocacy work yourself, and when you step up to run for positions in your local, county, or state association, you are not just keeping our union; you are making it even stronger.
How do I contact my county’s representatives on the DA?
Log on to njea.org, slide over to “MyNJEA” and click on “Committees.”
Click on “Delegate Assembly.”
Each DA member’s email address is his or her first initial and last name followed by @njea.org. (For example, if there were a delegate named Doremus Jessup, his email address would be firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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