The facts show that the most powerful special interest – the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) – has been the dominant force in New Jersey politics for over fifty years. The NJEA built a1system where property tax dollars are funneled directly into its coffers, and this automatic, annual flow of money allowed the NJEA to spend far more on politics than anyone else. This gave it unmatched political influence,which it used to further its own interests and block attempts at reform. New Jersey’s status quo is the NJEA’s status quo.
Over 80 percent of teacher dues flow up to the NJEA to fund its political activities and the generous salaries of the political pros who run them.
SurreptitiousPoliticalSpendingandInadequateDisclosure.The shift of funds to the executive office was fairly transparent. Other NJEA political spending is far less transparent and deserves public scrutiny. One notable example is the NJEA’s clandestine funding of the independent expenditure group New Direction New Jersey (NDNJ), which supports Governor Murphy’s agenda. NDNJ does not disclose its donors, which has generated public controversy and resulted in legislation requiring disclosure (supported by ELEC’s Jeff Brindle) that was conditionally vetoed by the governor. NJEA Executive Director Richardson made a report to the NJEA Delegate Assembly concerning the NJEA’s “participation in an independent expenditure issue advocacy effort to support the governor’s policy agenda.” Note well that the name of the group is not mentioned. The Delegate Assembly authorized the transfer of $1.6 million to Cost Center 0471“Organizational Projects” to supplement the $900,000 that was already there “for spending, as needed, on independent expenditures that advocates in support of the governor’s agenda.” Cost Center 0471 “Organizational Projects” sat in the “Governance” section of the NJEA budget prior to 2015. It has no clear political identifier (unless “organizational” is code for political spending), yet it is most certainly money spent on politics. That means at least $2.5 million of NJEA political spending was surreptitiously dedicated to NDNJ. We do not know the full extent of the NJEA’s funding of NDNJ. Perhaps some intrepid news reporter could ask the NJEA.
Another dynamic has taken hold of the NJEA as it shifted to a political organizing model: the political operators who have taken over the NJEA headquarters pay themselves exceedingly well. The latest tax returns available (2015) show truly jaw-dropping compensation numbers that put six of the NJEA professional staff and officers into the top one percent of NJ earners (a $589,000 threshold). The top political pro, the executive director, made a whopping $1.2 million, almost doubling the top elected officer, the president, at $650,000. Remarkably, even the number two political operator, the assistant executive director, out-earned the president at $723,000. As seen below in Figure 1, five of the NJEA’s six one-percenters are from the professional staff, including one from UniServ, and only one an elected NJEA officer. The other two elected officers, the vice president and secretary-treasurer, come in far down the pay scale from the professional staffers. Note also that the average compensation for these one-percenters was $757,000, well into the top one percent and about 10times what the average New Jersey teacher makes ($76,000).
the average New Jersey teacher makes about $76,000per year. That teacher is currently paying $928 per year in dues – up a substantial 9.7 percent since 2014, the year after the NJEA’s political re-organization. Of those dues, 83 percent goes up to the state-level NJEA.
There has been coverage of the report by Politico which elicited these responses so far:
“I’m bothered the governor is so connected to a point where it really affects the decisions for the people of New Jersey,” — Senate President Steve Sweeney, sarcastically responding to news that the NJEA contributed $2.5 million to a dark money group supporting Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda.
Is our Governor that shameless, politically incompetent or both? He has taken phoniness and hypocrisy to whole other level. The Governor needs to stop embarrassing New Jersey. Jack Ciattarelli, former Assemblyman and Republican candidate for governor in 2021.
All I can add is that the NJEA 990 filing for the year ended August 31, 2017 is out and there were some pay cuts while the NJEA’s own Defined Benefit plan is very well funded.