NJ Politics Digest: Should Taxpayers Support Teachers’ Unions?

Bill to Prevent 'Passing the Trash' in New Jersey
New Jersey School Room. Pixabay

It’s well known that unions representing New Jersey’s public school teachers aren’t afraid to throw their weight around in Trenton.

But on Wednesday, a local teachers’ union ran into pushback from appellate court judges who seemed to challenge the idea that taxpayers should be funding union activities, according to a report by NJ.com.

The judges were hearing a case on whether or not the concept of “release time,” which allows Jersey City Education Association officials to collect public salaries while working for the union, should be declared unconstitutional.

While the judges haven’t yet issued a ruling, NJ.com reports that during the hour-long arguments, the three-judge appellate panel didn’t seem to buy the argument that taxpayers should be footing the bill for officials doing union business.

“They’re being paid to do the union’s work and nothing else,” said Judge Francis J. Vernoia, according to the NJ.com report.

The lawsuit was filed by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative group, on behalf of two New Jersey taxpayers. The suit contends release time violates the New Jersey Constitution’s ban on public gifts. The district’s contract stipulates that JCEA president, Ron Greco, and Vice President Tina Thorp each receive about $100,000 to run the union full time, according to the NJ.com report.

Union attorneys argued, in part, that release time is a common practice throughout the state, according to the report. They also say the practice is permitted under state laws governing leaves of absence.

The plaintiffs appealed the case after a trial judge in Hudson County ruled against them.

Quote of the Day: “When you’re hired as a teacher, you should be teaching,” — Judge Jose L. Fuentes responding to arguments that Jersey City taxpayers should cover the cost of local teachers union officials’ salaries.

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NJ Politics Digest: Should Taxpayers Support Teachers’ Unions?