The Taxpayer-Funded Political Machine - Sunlight Policy Center

The Taxpayer-Funded Political Machine

The NJEA is a taxpayer-funded special interest.  The NJEA rigged the system so that over a hundred million of property tax dollars go directly to the NJEA every year without teachers ever seeing the money.  The NJEA then spends most of this money on politics at both the state and local levels. The modern NJEA is a political machine. Its Executive Office is dominated by political operatives and almost all its activities involve political action.  In politics, money is power, and the NJEA has more money than any other group. This taxpayer-funded special interest is now the most powerful political force in the state.

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Research Reports

THE NJEA v. LOCAL UNIONS: THE LOCAL UNIONS MAKE AND THE NJEA TAKES

The NJEA controls all their dues but today’s teachers have never voted on their local’s relationship with the NJEA.

You read that right.  It’s almost certain that no current New Jersey teacher has ever voted on whether they want the NJEA as their collective bargaining representative.  That’s because the NJEA was elected over 50 years ago and has never had to stand for another vote.

We know from teacher feedback that they like their local unions.  Local union officers are elected by the local teachers and spend most of their time working on behalf of teachers on the local issues that teachers care about.  But in the NJEA system, 85% of dues go to the NJEA and the NEA (its national parent) where it is spent on state and national politics and excessive compensation for top execs.  Only 12% goes to the local.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Other unions keep most of the money at the local level, giving them the power to spend it as they wish and lower dues.  We ask: If teachers had a choice, would they prefer to control their own dues money?  Would they want to limit extraneous spending in order to reduce their highest-in-the-nation dues?

New Jersey law allows for replacing an existing union like the NJEA.  Teachers do not have to be stuck with a union that was elected over 50 years ago. They do not have to watch helplessly as their hard-earned dollars get automatically siphoned off and used for things they don’t approve of.  They can control their own money.  All they need to do is decertify the NJEA and vote in a new, replacement union.

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SCHOOL DISTRICT DATA SHOWS THAT NJEA MEMBERSHIP DECLINED -10% FROM 2018-2023

The Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision gave teachers a choice whether to belong to the NJEA, and many have chosen to leave.

That’s why the Wayne Education Association (WEA) is trying to block Sunlight’s campaign.  Thanks to our campaign, teachers were learning the facts about how NJEA leadership spends their highest-in-the-nation dues and choosing to leave the NJEA.

Sunlight’s analysis of 17 school districts found that what was happening in Wayne was happening all over the state: every district saw a decline, which averaged -10.9%.  Five districts have lost almost a quarter of their members.  We also looked at NJEA members as a percentage of their bargaining unit, where we found a decline from 99% prior to the Janus ruling to 88.9% in 2023, a -10% decline that mirrors the absolute decline in membership.  Five bargaining units had fewer than 80% NJEA members.

The bottom line is that NJEA membership appears to be well below the false 200,000 number advertised on the NJEA website.

All of this is confirmation that when teachers learn they have a choice and the facts about how their dues are spent, many choose to stop paying dues and leave the NJEA.

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NJEA LEADERSHIP’S SCHEME TO HIDE THE FACTS FROM TEACHERS

Because when teachers learn the facts about excessive executive compensation and political spending, many choose to leave the NJEA

That’s why the Wayne Education Association is asking the state to force the Wayne School District to block Sunlight’s email campaign.  Too many Wayne teachers were learning the facts about how NJEA leadership spends their highest-in-the-nation dues on excessive executive compensation and political spending and leaving the NJEA.

That’s why the NJEA created the “Member Protection Center” — aimed squarely at Sunlight — to “protect” teachers from these inconvenient facts.

That’s why NJEA leadership hides their one-percenter compensation, the highest in the nation by far.

And that’s why NJEA leadership hides the existence of the NJEA’ Super PAC, Garden State Forward, which has spent over $68 million of teachers’ regular dues on politics.  Most teachers have no idea Garden State Forward exists, let alone that they are paying for it.

The NJEA knows that when teachers learn these facts, many decide they have better uses for the $1,500 in dues withheld from their paychecks every year.  The NJEA’s self-serving actions don’t benefit teachers, who deserve to know the facts, they benefit NJEA leadership.

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POST-PANDEMIC, TEACHERS ARE STRETCHED AND STRESSED. WHY IS NJEA LEADERSHIP PUSHING THEM TO FIGHT THE CULTURE WARS?

Against the vast majority of New Jersey citizens and parents, according to a recent Monmouth poll.

Post-pandemic learning loss and increased student misbehavior are making it harder for teachers to teach and causing many to leave the profession altogether.  What is their union leadership, the NJEA leadership, doing about it?  Nothing.

Rather than helping teachers teach, the NJEA is adding to their burdens by pushing teachers to fight local culture wars against the vast majority of citizens and parents across the state.  When it comes to parental notification, the teaching of gender identity to grades 1-5, allowing gender-birth boys to play girls sports, and allowing bathroom use by gender identity, the Monmouth poll shows that NJEA-promoted policies are far out of step with the rest of New Jersey.  And yet NJEA leadership is pushing teachers to becomes local advocates for these deeply unpopular policies.

All of this is being paid for by New Jersey teachers’ highest-in-the-nation dues.  Sunlight asks: how is it in teachers’ best interest for them and their dues to be used to fight the culture wars?  It’s not.  Yet teachers have no say in the matter.  What a raw deal.

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST: NJEA PRESIDENT SEAN SPILLER USES MILLIONS OF TEACHERS’ DUES FOR HIS PERSONAL POLITICAL CAREER

NJEA President Sean Spiller has boundless political ambition.  He’s run for office in Montclair since 2012 and is now reportedly eyeing a gubernatorial run in 2025.

Throughout Spiller’s personal political career in Montclair, the NJEA has been his largest supporter, primarily using the NJEA’s Super PAC, Garden State Forward.  Now Garden State Forward is spending millions on Spiller’s dark-money Super PAC “Protecting Our Democracy,” widely viewed as a platform for a Spiller run for governor in 2025.

Here’s the rub: Unlike the NJEA’s traditional PAC, NJEA PAC, Garden State Forward is funded by New Jersey teachers’ regular dues.  Teachers have no say in the matter.  NJEA leadership — including Spiller — simply appropriates their dues as they see fit.  Most teachers don’t know they are funding Garden State Forward — or Spiller’s personal political career.

Herein lies another massive conflict of interest for Spiller: He has a duty to protect his members’ best interests, but is supporting Spiller’s personal political career in their best interests?

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NJEA LEADERSHIP: HIGHEST PAY IN THE NATION BY FAR

The NJEA is not the biggest teachers union but leadership pays themselves the most compensation.  By far.

More than the leadership of its parent, National Education Association and more than the leadership of the other large state teachers unions in California, New York and Pennsylvania.

From 2018-20, the average pay for the top ten NJEA execs was $752,726, well within the New Jersey top one percent and over ten times what the average teacher is paid.  During his career as an NJEA exec, former-Executive Director Ed Richardson amassed an astounding $9.3 million, which must be some sort of record for a teachers union boss.

ALL paid for by New Jersey teachers, whose annual dues are the highest in the nation.  By far.  NJEA leadership has made themselves one-percenters on the backs of teachers.  If teachers knew these facts, they would be outraged.

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TEACHERS WANT TO TEACH, NOT PLAY POLITICS

So the NJEA outsources GOTV and forces teachers to pay for it.

Almost none of today’s teachers give to NJEA PAC and few participate in NJEA efforts to get out the vote in support of NJEA-endorsed candidates.  So the NJEA has outsourced GOTV to outside vendors – most from out of state.

As a result, NJEA political action increasingly reflects the agenda of NJEA leadership, not the will of teachers.

Read The Full Report 

IS THE EDUCATION TRUTH PROJECT A NJEA-FUNDED, DARK MONEY SUPER PAC?

It sure looks like the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is funding another dark money Super PAC, this time aimed squarely at parents running for their local school boards this fall.

So, parents, beware!  The NJEA is coming after you with TV ads, opposition research, union-friendly candidates trained and supported by the NJEA, and now with piles of dark money.

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Why Is There a Teacher Shortage?  The NEA Has Known Why Since 2014

In a 2014 National Education Association (NEA) study, young teachers made it very clear that they wanted less politics and seniority in their profession, but the NJEA and NEA gave them more of both.

If New Jersey wants more teacher candidates, maybe we should listen to what these young teachers actually said.  

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New Jersey’s Teacher Shortage is Nothing Less than A Crisis

 “Let’s be clear, the challenges created by the current staffing shortages are systemic and have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but they existed before it began.”

– David Aberhold, Superintendent for West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District and President of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.

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Sunlight Policy Center Releases 2021 Election Spending Analysis

New Jersey Teachers Might Not Know This, So Feel Free to Share During Parent-Teacher Conferences

FACT – Leading up to and during the 2021 elections the NJEA Spent $167 for EACH AND EVERY TEACHER to Support Murphy and Democrats

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Shining a Light on the NJEA’s Dark Money Trails

THE POLL$ HAVE CLO$ED…. AND WE CAN NOW PROJECT THE REAL WINNER$ OF LAST WEEK’$ ELECTION…

Congratulation$ to Brendan Gill, Steve DiMicco and Brad Lawrence!

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NJ’s Most Powerful Special Interest, the NJEA, Spends 93% of Its PAC Money on Democrats

Since Sunlight Policy Center of New Jersey began shining a light on the entrenched power of the NJEA – many teachers have shared their complaints about their executive leadership – and we get a lot of them.

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Previously Unreported Filings Shows $56.99 was spent for each Spiller vote versus $1.97 for His Opponent, Dr. Renee Baskerville

When Sunlight Policy Center first delved into the NJEA’s support for its current president, Sean Spiller’s, mayoral run, we determined that Spiller had raised $57,000, of which $36,000 came from the NJEA and its allies.

WE WERE WRONG!  VERY WRONG!  IT WAS MORE, MUCH, MUCH MORE!!

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New Jersey Teachers' Dues: Why are they the highest in the nation and what are they paying for?

New Jersey Teachers’ Dues: Why Are They The Highest In The Nation And What Are They Paying For?

New Jersey’s teachers are getting a raw deal, and most are not even aware of it. Most spend their energy and passion teaching our children and contributing to their communities, not worrying about where their dues money goes. But each year, most of their $1,362 of annual dues is spent far away from their local associations. If the facts about how this money is spent ever came to light, teachers would not be happy.

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NJEA New Jersey's political machine

NJEA: New Jersey’s Political Machine

The modern New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is a taxpayer-funded political machine. Political organizing infuses the organization from top to bottom.

At the top, the NJEA Executive Office is now run by political operators: three-quarters of the Executive Office are political organizers. Almost all of the headquarters staff are engaged in some form of political activity. Even the human resources manager and the professional development staff have political roles to play.

 

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NJEA: The Taxpayer-Funded Special Interest

How has the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) – a private, special interest – become the most powerful political force in the state?

By rigging the system to secure annual, automatic taxpayer funding. Since 1994, over $2.1 billion in taxpayer funding, reaching a record $129 million in 2018.

Decades ago, the NJEA used it political clout to lobby lawmakers to construct a funding system that guaranteed the annual flow of tens of millions of property tax dollars directly into its coffers. School districts collect the property taxes that pay teacher salaries and then withhold the teachers’ dues from their paychecks. Over 80 percent of these dues flow up to the NJEA. School districts and teachers are thus rendered mere pass-throughs for property tax dollars to flow directly into the NJEA’s treasury. The teachers never see the money.

 

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Related Posts From Sunlight Blog

Now We Know: NJEA Leadership Is Using $2 Million of Teachers’ Regular Dues to Fund President Spiller’s Personal Political Career — Without Their Consent

Now we know how much NJEA leadership is contributing to NJEA President Sean Spiller’s personal Super PAC, Protecting Our Democracy.  As shown below in a filing with the Election Law Enforcement Commission, NJEA leadership funneled…

Read More

Montclair Settles the Whistleblower Lawsuit, Which Will Cost the Town Millions, But What About Mayor Sean Spiller’s Criminal Liability?

The Montclair Local  reported that the Montclair has settled the whistleblower lawsuit against Mayor Sean Spiller and the town.  Because the town’s lawyers stonewalled and prolonged the legal process, the lawsuit went on for over…

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High Taxes and Cost of Living Erase NJ Teachers’ Wage Premium Over Other States

The National Education Association (NEA) — the national parent organization of the NJEA — claims that teachers in states with collective bargaining like New Jersey have substantially higher salaries than states that do not permit…

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