NJEA endorses Buono for New Jersey governor

Sen. Barbara Buono announced that she will launch a campaign for New Jersey governor.

March 16, 2013 4:32:49 PM PDT
New Jersey's largest teachers union has endorsed Democrat Barbara Buono's bid to unseat Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

The vow of support for Buono, a state senator from Metuchen, was announced Saturday. The NJEA's political action committee, representing members in every county, had voted unanimously Friday night to endorse Buono. That came shortly after Buono and Christie were interviewed by a 15-member screening committee.

Saying it's time the state had "new leadership" and "new priorities," the union cited Buono's longtime support for public education as a key component of its decision.

"She is a proud graduate of New Jersey's public schools, and understands the vital role they play in the aspirations of middle class citizens," said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian.

"Unfortunately, over the past three years, teachers and school employees have seen their budgets slashed, their colleagues laid off, their class sizes increased, and their programs cut," Keshishian added. "Barbara Buono will be a governor who will believe in public education and the men and women who work in our public schools."

Buono said Saturday she was "proud" to have the support of the union, which represents about 195,000 current and retired teachers and other school staff members.

The union's endorsement of Buono came as no surprise, as Christie and the NJEA have clashed consistently since before he took office in January 2010. The union's political action committee had endorsed former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine four years ago, when he was defeated by Christie.

"We are obviously not surprised about the endorsement," Mike DuHaime, the governor's chief political adviser, said Saturday. "While there have been areas of disagreement, there have also been examples of working together for the benefit of our state's kids, such as the new tenure reform law signed last year."

Some of Christie's biggest policy accomplishments have had a big effect on teachers. Thousands of them were laid off when he cut about $1 billion in 2010 from the state's subsidy for local schools. At the time, he lambasted unions, saying it was their fault for not taking contract concessions, and he told a teacher who complained to him about her lack of compensation that she didn't have to teach..

He also imposed a cap on property tax growth and forced teachers and other public employees to make bigger contributions to their retirement and health insurance plans. He also has advocated for school vouchers, which would allow students in failing districts to attend school elsewhere. The Legislature has not gone along with that proposal.