An Open Letter to Senator Nellie Pou:
As you know, New Jersey's public schools rank among the finest in the nation. This achievement was made possible due to the unwavering dedication from all of New Jersey's teachers and educational support professionals. In fact, we are proud products of New Jersey's public school system ourselves.
Like you, we interact with many of the thousands of teachers and educational support professionals that live, work, commute to and vote in your legislative district. As we canvass our schools and speak with our members, the one common refrain that we all hear is the comment, "I am barely making it." Although financial pundits have stated that the nation may be starting to pull out of the recession of the early 2000s, members across Passaic County, as well as across the state, are really struggling. The damage of P.L. 2011, Chapter 78, the law signed by former Gov. Chris Christie has caused our members to foreclose on their homes, risk auto repossession and encounter other challenging financial hardships—all of which have left many of them working multiple jobs just to keep the lights on.
Like you, our members are outraged because, since 2011, their take-home pay has decreased every single year. Think about that for a moment: As the prices of basic household necessities increase, our members’ paychecks steadily decrease. In many cases, these same members are paying over $13,000 per year towards their employee contribution for health insurance mandated under this law. To add insult to injury, unless the legislature acts to correct this, there is no end in sight to how much an employee will pay towards his/her share of health benefits because, as it stands, employees’ salaries are directly tied to health care premiums.
Like you, we want to see only the best and the brightest educators in our public schools. However, many college-age students are watching their parents and former teachers struggle and are choosing not to enter the profession. This comes precisely at the time when we, the baby boom and X generations, will be retiring, and our schools will need to attract and retain new teachers to take our collective place. Unless we do something to restore the respect for our public school employees and right this wrong, we could be faced with a teacher shortage soon, leaving us unable to maintain our world-class school system.
Finally, like you, we are seeking a solution to the horrendous unintended consequences of Chapter 78, as well as additional job protections for the thousands of educational employees that live, work, commute to and vote in your legislative district. Thousands of employees in Passaic County are relying on legislators—like you—to stand with us.
To that end, we humbly request that you publicly support S-2606, S-296, and S-3089, so we can continue to strengthen our public schools and provide our teachers and educational support with much-needed relief and long-overdue job protections. Like you, they simply want to educate their own children and provide the necessities their families deserve.
John McEntee, Jr., President, Paterson Education Association
Eda Ferrante, President, Wayne Education Association
Robin Holcombe, President, Education Association of Passaic
Susan Butterfield, President, Passaic County Education Associations