It’s NJEA Convention Time,

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that two-day period in November when New Jersey public schools close so that teachers can go to Atlantic City for all sorts of worthwhile activities. The oddity is the timing: why do our teachers convene during a Thursday and Friday in November when kids would normally be in the classrooms? The Connecticut Education Association holds its annual conference in August. New York State holds several one-day conferences, and schools remain open. Pennsylvania’s does also. What’s with Jersey?

Consider it a gift from your State Legislature in the form of statute 18A:31-32, which mandates that any teacher, secretary, or office clerk shall be granted permission to attend the Convention “and he shall receive his whole salary for the days of actual attendance upon the sessions of such convention upon filing with the secretary of the board a certificate of such attendance signed by the executive secretary of the association.”

It doesn’t really work like that. Schools just close down and everyone gets paid, whether they go to the Convention or not. (Most don’t; NJEA estimates the attendance this year at 50,000, though that includes a bevy of NJEA officials, vendors, etc. and NJEA membership is over 200,000.) As our public school system is evermore taxed by curricular enhancements and mandates, as pressure builds to maximize educational benefits, perhaps it’s time for NJEA to give those two days back to the kids.

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