The Bergen County Education Association’s Political Action Committee (BCEA PAC) met in April with Passaic, Hudson and Sussex County PAC members to start the endorsement process for this November’s Congressional election. The BCEA PAC is made up of BCEA Members from throughout Bergen County Public Schools…including teachers, educational support professionals and retired members. These members volunteer their time to help the BCEA (and NJEA and NEA) identify political candidates that will support our great public schools and the staff members, who work in them. Besides members of the screening committee, local presidents (or their designee) are also allowed to observe this open and democratic process.
It is vital for BCEA members to know that the nonpartisan PAC process is a “bottom up” process. It starts at the county level…so it is LOCAL members who decide if a local candidate represents our local members interests. The BCEA’s PAC recommendation is made by local members and then sent to the NJEA PAC Operating Committee. The 125-member NJEA PAC Operating Committee consists of NJEA’s officers, the NJEA Executive Committee, the county association presidents, the NJEA Government Relations Committee, the Congressional Contact Committee, the president of New Jersey Preservice Education Association, the NJREA legislative chairperson, and two NJREA regional legislative chairs. If the NJEA PAC Operating Committee accepts the county’s recommendation, then it is sent to the NEA for a vote. (Since Congressional Legislative Districts over lap county lines, each county is represented by the population proportion, which is why Passaic, Hudson and Sussex joined Bergen County at this screening.)
Screening committees generally invite all major candidates for an interview. Prior to meeting the candidate, the committee reviews completed NEA questionnaires submitted by the candidate and if he or she is an incumbent, the candidate’s voting record. These questionnaires inquire about a candidate’s beliefs in school funding (like Title I), vouchers, charter schools and many other issues that affect our members. Each candidate screening session allows time for candidates to answer screening committee questions. When evaluating the candidates, the screening committee consider candidates’ positions on issues and electability. For incumbents, committees also consider Congressional voting records, committee assignments, leadership positions, sponsorship of pro-public education legislation, and accessibility to NEA members. If an incumbent’s voting record is rated an A+ by the NEA (which means they have supported NEA positions almost 100% of the time), then the incumbent can seek early endorsement.
Believe it or not….the NEA, NJEA and BCEA are nonpartisan. If one checks the record, they will see that Democrats AND Republicans ARE endorsed at all three levels. Some of the major deciding factors are whether or not the candidate supports our great public schools, our students and our public school employees. While endorsed candidates may not support our positions 100% of the time…the screening committees examines which candidates beliefs are closest to our own on the most important issues. It is a very difficult, but worthwhile process and we thank all the members of the BCEA Screening Committee for their dedication and service.