Sunday, May 2, 2010

NJEA: Excellent at Shooting Itself in the Foot

The prolific philosopher Anonymous once said, “Nothing is ever a total loss. It can always be used as a bad example”. This certainly rings true with how the New Jersey Education Association has handled the Christie crisis.

The NJEA has taken what should be a no-brainer issue – support for our children’s education – and has allowed the Chris Christie and the New Jersey Tea Baggers to control the agenda.

Our state has always had a reputation for excellence in education. From pre-K to Rutgers and other premier universities, New Jersey has historically supported the needs of its citizens and citizens of the world with the best in academics and research. This does not come for free – it takes a significant investment, but it’s an investment that pays off in better jobs, a climate that’s better for business, and world-class innovation.

By mimicking the governor’s tone of arrogance and intransigence, NJEA has turned the general public against the best interests of our citizens. If a message is repeated enough times, people tend to believe it, and Christie’s incessant “taxes are bad” mantra has succeeded, as evidenced in the recent school budget elections.

To be successful, NJEA needs to wrest control of the agenda from the governor’s public relations machine. They should relieve their Communications director of his or her duty and refocus the message on the value of our teachers, why an educated workforce is more important than tax cuts, and provide a counterpoint to Jim Gearhart and the other demagogic talking heads within the local media. NJEA should tout their compromises on pensions and benefits – even a small compromise goes a long way in enhancing their image with the public. They owe it to our kids.

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