Having rigged the system to secure taxpayer funding and the direct pass-through of teachers’ dues, the NJEA has spent most of this money on politics.
Yet New Jersey citizens and even its own members are largely unaware of how much it actually spends on politics. The NJEA has cleverly used loopholes and disguises to mask this spending, and therefore the numbers reported to the public severely understate what it really spends.
The SPCNJ’s purpose is to shine a light on these facts and help New Jersey citizens and the NJEA’s own members understand how much of their tax dollars and dues are being spent on politics. Only then can the enormity of the NJEA’s political power and its outsized influence on the state’s political system and economy be fully comprehended.
According to New Jersey’s election watchdog, the NJEA is by far the top political spender in the state when it comes to reported spending at both the state and local levels. No other political spender comes close.
But reported political spending is only a fraction of what the NJEA actually spends on politics. With its Executive Office now controlled by political organizers and its operating model shifted to political organizing, the NJEA views its hundreds of local affiliates and their 200,000 members as organizing opportunities for local- and state-level political campaigns.
Accordingly, the political operators who organize and mobilize this army, the media campaigns that seek to influence public opinion, and the headquarters staff who coordinate and direct the overall political effort must be taken into account to get a full picture of the NJEA’s political spending. Yet due to an election law loophole, most of this spending is not reported.
When these elements are included, from 1999-2017, NJEA political spending was as much as ten times larger than the reported amounts, totaling $884 million, or about $44 million per year.
The modern NJEA – with its focus on political organizing and its use of the unlimited political spending tools of independent expenditures and grassroots issue advocacy – spends about $65 million per year on politics, or 58 percent of its operating budget. This is a truer measure of the NJEA’s political spending and the dominant role that politics now play in the organization.
$65 million a year: this is real money behind the NJEA’s political power.