Elections have consequences. That is the stark reality that we in public education have been dealing with for the past six years; increased contributions to our pensions and health benefits, statutory caps on school budgets that have stifled our ability to negotiate a living wage, and a climate that continually vilifies us as greedy and demeans our good name.
Elections have consequences – yes, they surely do, and it’s high time that we fully come to grips with this fact and finally pick ourselves up and organize our full collective strength and take back the power.
And it is power that we have, latent as it may have become. I have said many times that the very fiber that makes us excellent public school employees works against when it comes time to stand up for ourselves. All too many times, we close our door, literally and figuratively and leave the politics aside. We have seen the results of this and I say no more.
As we begin a new school year, we also find ourselves in the midst of another election that has the entire NJ Assembly up for a vote. We have a governor more concerned with the national stage than the state, whose popularity has hit all-time lows, and a public that in polls, seems to agree with many of our issues. Look no further than the success of the PARCC organizing as proof of our mettle.
This is our time to retake the initiative and work like never before to elect those politicians who have proven their support and elect new comers that have promised to stand with us.
The long and short of it is this, we have a short time to do the good work and have the consequences work in our favor.
And the work is already being done. Each counties Political Action Committee (PAC) met in July and screened (or invited) every single candidate for the Assembly and made a recommendation to the NJEA PAC for official endorsement. This means as an endorsed candidate, you receive money (only from member voluntary PAC donations, no dues) and member support in the form of labor on behalf of the candidates.
The result of this PAC meeting was a list of 54 endorsed candidates. Every single one has pledged their support on our core issues, with the pension being first and foremost. Not one incumbent who voted against full funding of our pensions was given our endorsement.
Now, this is where you come in.
I know it’s still summer, but the work has already begun and we need your help now. Your SCEA government relations representatives, Dan Epstein and Mike Dlugosz, have already met with the candidates, Maureen Vella and Andrew Zwicker, challenging the incumbents, Jack Ciatarelli and Donna Simon in LD16 and have worked out a strategy for a plausible victory that would bring consequences that would shake the foundations of the establishment and help to restore the balance of power rightfully in our favor.
Over the next few weeks, legislative action teams and representatives from all of the counties encompassed in LD16 will be meeting to continue to enact the plan for victory. If you are available and willing, please contact your local president or our SCEA GR reps Dan and Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com get involved now. If not, when you return to school, reach out to your local leadership and offer your support to work the phones, canvass neighborhoods and offer whatever support you can in this worthwhile cause.
I don’t have to spell out how difficult these past six years have been or how hard it may be going forward with the status quo. But the plain truth is the future belongs to those who are willing to work to shape it. Will it be us? Together in Somerset, we are 7,000 strong. Statewide, 200,000+. If we can all pitch in, stay informed and engaged, those dreaded consequences may just be for someone else.
Best of luck on a great school year!
President, Somerset County Education Association