Making our way through the NJEA’s 2020 IRS filing (the most recent), we now turn to the NJEA’s network of allies. The NJEA has long used its millions of withheld teachers’ dues to fund a variety of groups that augment the NJEA’s pursuit of political influence, often allowing the NJEA to obscure its own role or to create the impression of a broader base of support for its actions.
Before we delve into the details, we note that overall the NJEA gave out $2.49 million to groups other than its own Super PAC, Garden Sate Forward. This was the smallest amount since 2012 and less than half the $5.93 million it gave in that year. We cannot help but wonder whether this is evidence of further belt-tightening on top of the -27% reduction in staffing at NJEA headquarters.
The three noteworthy donations for 2020 were to three of the NJEA’s million-dollar allies, all of which have been long-time beneficiaries of NJEA money.
New Jersey Working Families Alliance (NJWFA): the progressive grassroots organization collected another $120,000 in 2020, bringing its total contributions to $975,500. NJWFA has a very close relationship with NJEA and participates in numerous coalitions aligned with the NJEA. Current Director of Government Relations for the NJEA, Deb Cornavaca, was a past head of Legislative Affairs for NJWFA. In addition to outright grants, NJWFA has also been paid $339,000 to get-out-the-vote for NJEA-backed candidates, including current NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller. That brings the total to $1.32 million. When you see NJWFA in action, think “NJEA.”
New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP): NJPP took in another $204,000 in 2020, bringing its total to $1.1 million. NJPP is a think-tank that is willing and able to provide an “academic research” veneer to the NJEA’s political campaigns with NJEA-friendly research reports, some NJEA-friendly testimony to the legislature, or a NJEA-friendly quote to the media. NJPP’s Mark “Jersey Jazzman” Weber has penned a great deal of slanted, cherry-picked research in support of NJEA priorities. Apparently, that doesn’t come cheap.
Education Law Center (ELC): ELC took in another $585,000 in 2020, bringing its total to $4.9 million. In return, ELC has pursued the NJEA’s legal agenda and placed both the current- and a former-NJEA executive director on its board. ELC has taken the lead in fighting charter schools and consistently pushed for increased state education aid, both perennial NJEA priorities. It’s pretty clear why the ELC has been described as the legal arm of the NJEA, and that doesn’t come cheap either.
NJWFA, NJPP and ELC — the NJEA’s million-dollar allies.