March 11, 2020: "Chapter 78 Relief May Be Coming Soon!"
On Monday March 9, 2020 the Senate President Steve Sweeney announced that an agreement was reached on Chapter 78 legislation that will dramatically lower the cost of health insurance and provide NJEA members with the relief we have been fighting for. Senator Sweeney also announced that he will support the two ESP Job Justice bills that NJEA has been campaigning for the last 2 years. This is the result of all the petitions, phone calls, emails, and post cards to legislators from our members. More details will follow in the weeks to come. Congrats and thank you for your hard work!
What is PATH TO PROGRESS?
Path to Progress is a package of approximately 27 bills by Senate President Steve Sweeney to help combat the fiscal problems of high property taxes and an underfunded state pension. Most of these bills will have state workers take the brunt for decades of poor, monetary mistakes make by past NJ politicans. The bills would make several significant structural changes to the pension and health plans for future New Jersey workers, as well as those with under five years of service by 2020. The reform also includes bills that will restructure school districts and cap the payouts given for unused sick leave.
NJEA is calling it Path to Poverty because teachers will again be hit the hardest. More details to follow.
What are ESPs and what are JOB JUSTICE BILLS?
ESPs are educational support professionals. They are our non-teaching coworkers in our schools like secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, and some IAs.
The NJEA is fighting for job justice for these ESPs because some ESPs are not protected by tenure.
Bill A-3395 prevents privatization during an active bargaining agreement. School districts would have to wait until the end of a contract to get replace ESP jobs with a private company. The school district must also give the union and ESPs enough time before the decision is made.
A-3664, which provides just cause arbitration rights to ESP members. Most ESPs do not have due process if discipline is taken against them. This bill would provide the due process to ensure that ESP members have arbitration rights.
What is Chapter 78?
Chapter 78 is constantly in the school headlines. In 2011, Governor Christie signed into law Chapter 78 which made state employees pay upward of 35% of their health insurance premiums, more into their pensions, and took away COLAS (cost of living increases) for all retirees. Since then, many of us have watched our paychecks decrease. Furthermore, with health care costs rising each year, there is no relief in sight.
Solution: NJEA is teaming up with legislators to pass bill A5814/S4114.
A5814/S4114 makes educators pay a percentage of their salary instead of a percentage of the health care premium cost. This saves employees thousands of dollars each year, as well as millions for the state and school districts.
The trade off is that a committee will establish 3 benchmark health insurance plans. Each plan would provide a different level of coverage at a different cost and different percentage sharing (from 2%-8%). An employee will have the opportunity to choose one of these 3 benchmark plans (where they will see savings) or continue with their current plan.
At the end of 5 years, all terms of the health insurance, including employee costs, would be subject to collective bargaining.
Call your assemblyman/woman and urge them to vote "YES" for A5814.
What is LAT?
LAT is the Legislative Action Team. This group of union members keeps up on the politics that affect public schools at the local, state, and federal levels. This political information may include bills related to staff salaries, pensions, contracts, health benefits, school safety. etc. This position is NOT party affiliated. It is the LAT's job to disseminate information back to our members and explain ways to take action FOR or AGAINST a political bill.
LAT members meet 3-5 times a year at the CCCEA office in Voorhees from 4:30-6 to acquire information from the NJEA to share with our members. Dinner is always served. The meeting dates for this school year are:
March 31- Legislative Dinner Meeting at the Mansion in Voorhees
If you are interested in politics and how they affect your school, please join us. If you would like to be a part of our VTEA LAT, please contact:
Tony Klock (Kresson)
Jeff Lanzilotta (VMS)
"We will stay out of politics when politics stays out of our schools."
Tuesday June 4th Update:
During their meeting on May 23rd, the Assembly passed both ESP Bills (S-296 and A-3664) in an overwhelming majority. The bills now move to the Senate where they will be voted on again. If they pass the Senate's vote, the bills will go to Governor Murphy's desk where he has the choice to either veto or sign it making it a New Jersey Law. Governor Murphy has already said if the 2 bills make it to his desk, he WILL SIGN THEM INTO NJ LAW.
Wednesday May 22nd Update:
The Senate and Assembly met last week.
1- ESP bills (S-296 and A-3664) are on the move and will be up for a vote on May 23rd. Make your last call into your Assembly and Senate leaders.
2- Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his 27 bill package for his Path to Progress. The package would include:
a- Putting new public employee hires (under 5 years of service) in TPAF and PERS into a new, hybrid, cash balance pension plan.
b- Eliminate the SEHBP (Best health benefits plan that we are in) and put all public employees into the SHBP (Good but lower tier health benefits plan).
c- Limit payouts for unused sick days
d- Require the plans for consolidation of school districts that are not k-12.
e- Create a pilot program for county school districts
f- Change special education funding (thought to increase).
g- Require sharing of services among local governments.
What is Chapter 78?
In 2011 under Governor Chris Christie, NJ legislators passed a bill into NJ law that was thought to fix the NJ pension problem. It called for state workers (teachers) to:
1- pay an increase in healthcare payment for all employees from 3% to 35% of insurance premium
2- pay an increase in pension payment for all employees from 5.5% to 7.5%
3- retirees forfeited their COLAs (cost of living adjustments) each year
Chapter 78 Relief: A-2606
After 7 years of paying into Chapter 78, relief is finally negotiable. Bills have been proposed by many legislators to lessen the burden on teachers and allow them to take home more of their weekly paycheck.
A-2606- Bill proposed that greatly increase our take home pay. Instead of paying 20%-35% of the health care premium, state workers (teachers) would pay either 3%, 4%, or 5% of their annual salary. 3% for single healthcare coverage, 4% for self and spouse coverage, and 5% for family coverage. This was proposed because insurance premiums are rising each year and are out of our control.
TAKE ACTION: Call your legislators (Assemblymen/women and Senators) and urge them to vote "YES" to A-2606 to give us Chapter 78 relief. Tell them to cosponsor the bill. Explain to them how Chapter 78 has negatively affected you and your family.
ESP Bills: S-296 & A-3664
ESP (Educational Support Professionals) are those non-teaching professionals such as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, and IAs that work for a school district. Most ESPs are under different rules within a district's contract. These bills help ESPs level the playing field and give them more job security.
S-296 (Subcontracting Bill)- Gives ESPs better job security. It does not allow a school district to hire an outside company to do ESP duties during an existing contract. It also forces a school district to give more time before hiring an outside company.
A-3664 (Due Process Bill)- Gives ESPs the same due process as teachers when facing a disciplinary action.
Who are your legislators?