Last month I decided to opt out of the NJEA. I did so because I felt it was the only way my voice could be heard.
I am a good teacher, who passionately believes in public education and supporting public school teachers at all costs. I support my local union - the Monmouth County Education Association - which has used their very tiny slice of the union dues pie to educate and empower their membership through in-service training, terrific workshops and community outreach programs. The Monmouth County Education Association does so much with so little and uses its meager allotment to do good for its members.
I wish this was also the case for our NJEA state leadership - but frankly, it is not.
I have been a public school teacher for the past 30 years. The statewide NJEA leadership could not do anything for us when my local union went on strike – twice. Instead, our statewide leadership has taken the money we have earned through hard work and passion and rewarded themselves with huge six-figure salaries year after year. Moreover, like most of the teachers I know, I have never felt comfortable with all the political ads the NJEA sponsors throughout the state.
Over the thirty years, I tried reaching out to the NJEA to ask them to meet its membership halfway. I asked that instead of having some of the highest dues in the country, to seriously consider reducing them. I asked that they stop hiring so many Trenton lobbyists. But there was never any response. For 30 years, the silence has made me feel disrespected and ignored.
Well, the U.S. Supreme Court got it right in the Janus decision earlier this summer when it concluded that compulsory union dues unconstitutionally rob a person of his/her First Amendment right to free speech.
I am not anti-union, anti-NJEA, anti-teacher, or anti-public schools. These are all catchphrases those in Trenton like to throw around. However, based on the priorities and decisions they have made, after so many years, I am done with the statewide leadership. I wish I could continue to support my local and county but unfortunately they are all connected. Hopefully that will change one day too.
I am writing to let each of you know – we now have a choice.
By opting out, we are provided for the first time the ability to take a stand and have our "silent" voice heard - and it is essential for each of us to understand we as teachers are now empowered. We can finally say – enough is enough.
It is interesting that for the months before the first PARCC test, our leadership in Trenton fought hard to make sure families around the state were aware of their ability to opt out of the test. Now, with this Janus decision, we have heard absolutely nothing on the choices we, as public employees now have.
…and this is why I am writing.
It is not my intent to tell you or even encourage you to opt out. That is a personal decision. However, since we are hearing nothing from our leadership on the issue, I wanted to encourage each of you to learn the facts. Options are now available to us.
Let's work together to build a brighter future for our teachers,
Ms. Fischer has been a public school teacher in New Jersey for over 30 years. Up until last month, she was a member of the NJEA.